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OUP-24-4 J *t-69-5,OCO 


GaU No. S 1 1 '? J 92-) Accession No. 

This book should be returned on or before the date last marked 




Commissioner of the Assam Valley Districts and Honorary Director 
of Ethnography in Assam 



Published '''-/' the Orders of the Anam Administration 





l"ir\t Mittfln tubliskett thnvhtre. 
Second Ktlition fivbluhtd by Matnrillnn and Co., Lid , 1014. 


THIS book is an attempt to give a systematic account of the 
Khasi people, their manners and customs, their ethnological 
affinities, their laws and institutions, their religious beliefs, 
their folk-lore, their theories as to their origin, and their 

This account would perhaps have assumed a more elaborate 
and ambitious form were it not that the author has been able 
to give to it only the scanty leisure of a busy district officer. 
He has been somewhat hampered by the fact that his work 
forms part of a series of official publications issued at the 
expense of the Government of Eastern Bengal and Assam, and 
that it had to be completed within a prescribed period of 

The author gladly takes this opportunity to record his 
grateful thanks to many kind friends who have helped him 
either with actual contributions to his material, or with not less 
valued suggestions and criticisms. The arrangement of the 
subjects discussed is due to Sir Bampfylde Fuller, formerly 
Lieutenant-Governor of the Province of Eastern Bengal and 
Assam, whose kindly interest in the Khasis will long be 
remembered by them with affectionate gratitude. The Intro- 
duction is from the accomplished pen of Sir Charles Lyall, to 
whom the author is also indebted for much other help and 
encouragement. It is now many years since Sir Charles Lyall 
served in Assam, but his continued regard for the Khasi people 
bears eloquent testimony to the attractiveness of their character, 
and to the charm which the homely beauty of their native hills 


exercises over the minds of all who have had the good fortune 
to know them. 

To Mr. N. L. Hallward thanks are due for the revision of the 
proof sheets of the first edition, and to the late Rev. H. P. 
Knapton for the large share he took in the preparation of its 
index. The section dealing with folk-lore could hardly have 
been written but for the generosity of the late Rev. Doctor 
Roberts, of the Welsh Calvinistic Mission in the Khasi and 
Jaintia Hills, in placing at the author's disposal his collection 
of the legends current among the people. Many others have 
helped, but the following names may be specially mentioned, 
viz. : Mr. J. B. Shadwell, Mr. S. E. Rita, the Rev. C. H. Jenkins, 
Mr. C. Shadwell, Mr. Dohory Ropmay, U Honnu Roy Diengdoh, 
U Rai Mohan Diengdoh, U Job Solomon, U Suttra Singh 
l)ordoloi, U San Mawthoh, U Hajam Kishore Singh, U Nissor 
Singh, and U Sabor Roy. 

A bibliography of the Khasis, which the author has attempted 
to make as complete as possible, has been added. The coloured 
plates, with one exception, viz., that taken from a sketch by the 
late Colonel Woodthorpe, have been reproduced from the 
pictures of Mrs. Philip Rogers and Mrs. Triinigcr, to whom 
my most hearty thanks are due. Lastly, the author wishes to 
express his thanks to Srijut Jagat Chandra Goswami, his pains- 
taking assistant, for his care in arranging the author's somewhat 
voluminous records, and for his work generally in connection 
with this Monograph. 

P. R. 0. 



Section I. GENERAL. 

Habitat ............ 1 

Appearance ........... 2 

Physical and General Characteristics ...... 4 

Geographical Distribution ...... . 6 

'Origin ............ 10 

Affinities . .......... 12 

Dress ........ ..... 18 

Tattooing ............ 21 

Jewellery ............ 21 

Weapons ............ 23 


-Occupation ........... 26 

Apiculture ........... 28 

Houses ............ 30 

Villages ............ 33 

Furniture and Household Utensils ...... 35 

Musical Instruments ...... ... 38 

'Agriculture .... ...... 39 

Crops ... ......... 43 

Hunting ............ 48 

Fishing . .......... 49 



Section II. DOMKSTK.' LIFK (continued). 

P,U: * 

Food 51 

Drink . 52 

Games 54 

Manufactures 57 

Manufacture of "Kri Silk Cloths and Cotton Cloths in the 

Jaintia Hills 59 

Cotton Cloths 59 

Pottery 60 

Section 111. LAWS \NI> CUSTOMS. 

Tribal Organisation 62 

State Organisation ...... ... 6H 

Marriage . ' ' . .... . 7<> 

Divorce 79 

Inheritance 82 


Adoption -iX . 85 

Tenure of Land and Laws regarding Land .... H6 

Hali Lands or Irrigated Paddy Lands 8,1 

Laws regarding other Property 91 

Decision of Disputes 01 

Decision of Cases by Ordeal 94 

War 97 

Human Sacrifices 98 

Section IV. RELKJION. 

General Character of Popular Beliefs 105 

Ancestor Worship 109 

Worship of Natural Forces and of Deities 113 

Religious Rites and Sacrifices, Divination 116 

Priesthood . 120 

Ceremonies and Customs attending Birth and Naming of 

Children 123 

Section IV. RELIGION (continued). 


Marriage 127 

Lamdoh Ceremony 130 

Lynngam Marriages 131 

Ceremonies attending Death 132 

Customs in Connection with Deaths by Violence or Accident. 135 

Miscellaneous Customs in Connection with Death . . . 137 

The Disposal of the Dead 140 

Khasi Memorial Stones .... .... 144 

Festivities, Domestic and Tribal 155 

Gonna ... ... .... 158 

Section V. FOLK-LOKK. 

Folk-tales .... . ! . . 161 


Toknonomy , .... ... 190 

Khasi Method of Calculating Time . . ... UK) 

The Lynngams 192 

Section VII. -LAN<JUA<JK 200 


A. Mxogamous Clans in the Cherra State .... 221 

13. Exogamous Clans in the Khyrim State .... 223 

C. Divination by Kgg- Breaking 226 

INDKA 229 


A Typical Khasi Woman. From a drawing by Mrs. Tiiiniger 

To face iwge 

A Group of Khasi Coolies. From a sketch by the late Colonel 

Woodthorpe, R.E 2 

A Khasi Child. From a drawing by Miss Kirene Scott O'Connor . 4 

A Syntcng Man. From a drawing by Mrs. Tniniger ... 18 

Ka Rimai Synteng. From a drawing by Miss Eirene Scott 

O'Connor 20 

A War Woman of Sheila. From a drawing by Miss Eirene Scott 

O'Connor 60 

A Khasi Girl in Dancing Dress. -From a drawing by Miss Eirene 

Scott O'Connor 157 

A Lynngam Head-man. From a picture by Mrs. Triinigor . . 192 

Lynngam Woman.- From a drawing by Mrs. Triiniger . . . 194 

Lynngam Woman. From a drawing by Mrs. Triiniger . . . 196 


Map 1 

Azalea Walk, Shillong 8 

A Khasi House 30 

A Khasi Archery Meeting 54 

Raja Dakhor Singh, Siem of Khyrim HH 


To face pugc 

A Khasi Durbar at Smit 92 

A Khasi Burning Platform 134 

A Khasi Stonehenge at Laitkor 144 

Memorial Stones at Laitkor . .151 

The great Monolith at Nartiang . . . 154 

The Sacrifice of the Goats at Smit . 15H 

The Kyllang Rock 170 

A Khasi Egg-breaking Board P;ige 227 


IN 1903 Sir Bampfylde Fuller, then Chief Commissioner of 
Assam, proposed, and the Government of India sanctioned, the 
preparation of a series of monographs on the more important 
tribes ami castes of the Province, of which this volume is the 
first. They were to be undertaken by writers who had had 
special arid intimate experience of the races to be described, the 
accounts of earlier observers being at the same time studied 
and incorporated ; a uniform scheme of treatment was laid 
down which was to be adhered to in each monograph, and 
certain limits of size were prescribed. 

Major Gurdon, the author of the following pages, who is also, 
as Superintendent of Ethnography in Assam, editor of the 
whole series, has enjoyed a long and close acquaintance with the 
Khasi race, whose institutions he has here undertaken to 
describe. Thoroughly familiar with their language, he has for 
three years been in charge as Deputy-Commissioner of the 
district where they dwell, continually moving among them, and 
visiting every part of the beautiful region which is called by 
their name. The administration of the Khasi and Jaintia 
Hills is an exceptionally interesting field of official responsibility. 
About half of the district, including the country around the 
capital, Shillong, is outside the limits of British India, consisting 
of a collection of small states in political relations, regulated by 
treaty, with the Government of India, which enjoy almost 
complete autonomy in the management of their local affairs. 
In the remainder, called the Jaintia Hills, which became 
British in 1835, it has been the wise policy of the Government 
to maintain the indigenous system of administration through 


officers named dolois, who preside over large areas of country 
with very little interference. All the British portion of the hills 
is what is called a " Scheduled District " under Acts XIV and 
XV of 1874, and legislation which may be inappropriate to the 
conditions of the people can be, and is, excluded from operation 
within it. In these circumstances the administration is carried 
on in a manner well calculated to win the confidence and 
attachment of the people, who have to bear few of the burdens 
which press upon the population elsewhere, and, with the 
peace and protection guaranteed by British rule, are able to 
develop their institutions upon indigenous lines. It is now 
more than forty years since any military operations have been 
necessary within the hills, and the advance of the district in 
prosperity and civilisation during the last half-century has been 
very striking. 

The first contact between the British and the inhabitants of 
the Khasi Hills followed upon the acquisition by the East India 
Company, in consequence of the grant of the Dvwam of Bengal 
in 1765, of the district of Sylhet. The Khasis were our 
neighbours on the north of that district, and to the north-east 
was the State of Jaintia, 1 ruled over by a chief of Khasi 
lineage, whose capital, Jaintiapur, was situated in the plain 
between the Surma river and the hills. Along this frontier 
the Khasis, though not averse from trade, and in possession of 
the quarries which furnished the chief supply of lime to 
deltaic Bengal, were also known as troublesome marauders, 
whose raids were a terror to the inhabitants of the plains. 
Captain R. B. Pemberton, in his Report on the Eastern 
Frontier (1835), mentions 2 an attack on Jaintia by a force 
under Major Henniker in 1774, supposed to have been made in 
retaliation for aggression by the Raja in Sylhet; and Robert 
Lindsay, who was Resident and Collector of Sylhet about 1778 
has an interesting account of the hill tribes and the Raja of 
Jaintia in the lively narrative embodied in the " Lives of the 
Lindsays." 3 Lindsay, who made a large fortune by working 

1 The previous history of the Khasi State of Jaintia, so far as it can 
be traced, will be found related in Mr. E. A. Gait's History of Assam 
(1906), pp. 253-262. 

a P. 211. :J Vol. iii., p. 163, 177, Ace. 


the lime quarries and thus converting into cash the millions of 
cowries in which the land-revenue of Sylhet was paid, appears 
to have imagined that the Khasis, whom he calls " a tribe of 
independent Tartars," were in direct relations with China, and 
imported thence the silk cloths l which they brought down for 
sale in the Sylhet markets. A line of forts was established 
along the foot of the hills to hold the mountaineers in check, 
and a Regulation, No. 1 of 1799, was passed declaring 
freedom of trade between them and Sylhet, but prohibiting the 
supply to them of arms and ammunition, and forbidding any- 
one to pass the Company's frontier towards the hills with arms 
in his hands. 

The outbreak of the first Burma War, in 1824, brought us 
into closer relations with the Raja of Jaintia, and in April of 
that year Mr. David Scott, the Governor-General's Agent on 
the frontier, marched through his territory from Sylhet to 
Assam, emerging at Raha on the Kalang river, in what is now 
the Nowgong district. This was the first occasion on which 
Europeans had entered the hill territory of the Khasi tribes, 
and the account of the march, quoted in Pemberton's Report, 2 
is the earliest authentic information which we possess of the 
institutions of the Khasi race. Dr. Buchanan-Hamilton, who 
spent several years at the beginning of the 19th century in 
collecting information regarding the people of Eastern India, 
during which he lived for some time at Goalpara in the 
Brahmaputra Valley, confused the Khasis with the Garos, and 
his descriptions apply only to the latter people. The name 
Garo, however, is still used by the inhabitants of Kamrup in 
speaking of their Khasi neighbours to the South, and 
Hamilton only followed the local usage. In 1826 Mr. David 
Scott, after the expulsion of the Burmese from Assam and the 
occupation of that province by the Company, entered the 
Khasi Hills in order to negotiate for the construction of a road 

1 These cloths, which Lindsay calls " moongadttitiett," were really the 
produce of Assam, and were dhutia or waist-cloths of muga silk. 

2 Pp. 218-220. It appears from p. 219 that Mr. Scott's report is 
responsible for the erroneous statement (often repeated) that the moun- 
taineers *' called by us Cossyahs, denominate themselves Khyee." This 
second name is in fact the pronunciation current in Sylhet of the word Khdnl, 
h being substituted for s, and should be written Khdhi. 


through the territory of the Khasi Siem or Chief of Nongkhlavv, 
which should unite Sylhet with Gauhati. A treaty was con- 
cluded with the chief, and the construction of the road begun. 
At Cherrapunji Mr. Scott built for himself a house on the 
plateau which, two years later, was acquired from the Siem by 
exchange for land in the plains, as the site" of a sanitarium. 1 
Everything seemed to promise well, when the peace was 
suddenly broken by an attack made, in April 1829, by the 
people of Nongkhlaw on the survey party engaged in laying out 
the road, resulting in the massacre of two British officers and 
between fifty and sixty natives. This led to a genera] 
confederacy of most of the neighbouring chiefs to resist the 
British, and a long and harassing war, which was not brought 
to a close till 1833. Cherrapunji then became the headquarters 
of the Sylhet Light Infantry, whose commandant was placed in 
political charge of the district, including the former dominions 
in the hills of the Raja of Jaintia, which he voluntarily 
relinquished in 1835 on the confiscation of his territory in the 

Cherrapunji, celebrated as the place which has the greatest 
measured rainfall on the globe, became a popular station, and the 
discovery of coal there, and at several other places in the hills, 
attracted to it many visitors, some of whom published accounts 
of the country and people. The first detailed description was 
apparently that of the Rev. W. Lish, a Baptist missionary, 
which appeared in a missionary journal in 1838. In 1840 Capt. 
Fisher, an officer of the Survey Department, published in the 
Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 2 an account which 
showed that the leading characteristics of the Khasi race had 
already been apprehended ; he mentions the prevalence of 
matriarchy or mother-kinship, notes the absence of polyandry, 
except in so far as its place was taken by facile divorce, describes 
the religion as a worship of gods of valleys and hills, draws 
attention to the system of augury used to ascertain the will of 
the gods, and gives an account of the remarkable megalith! c 
monuments which everywhere stud the higher plateaus. He 

1 In Mr. Scott's time it was usual to speak of such a plaoe as a 
a Vol. ix., pp. 833 sqq. 


also recognises the fact that the Khasis as a race are totally 
distinct from the neighbouring hill tribes. In 1841 Mr. W. 
Robinson, Inspector of Schools in Assam, included an account 
of the Khasis in a volume on that province which was printed 
at Calcutta. In 1844 Lieut. Yule (afterwards Sir Henry Yule) 
published in the Journal of the Bengal Asiatic Society 1 a much 
more detailed description of the hills and their inhabitants than 
had been given by Fisher. This formed the basis of many 
subsequent descriptions, the best known of which is the 
attractive account contained in the second volume of Sir 
Joseph Hooker's Himalayan Journals? published in London in 
1854. Sir Joseph visited Cherrapunji in June 1850, and stayed 
in the hills until the middle of the following November. 

Meanwhile the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Mission, 
originally located at Sylhet, had extended their operations to 
Cherrapunji, and in 1842 established a branch there. They 
applied themselves to the study of the Khasi language, for 
which, after a trial of the Bengali, they resolved to adapt the 
Roman character. Their system of expressing the sounds of 
Khasi has since that time continued in use, and after sixty 
years' prescription it would be difficult to make a change. 
Their Welsh nationality led them to use the vowel y for the 
obscure sound represented elsewhere in India by a short a (the 
u in the English but\ and for the consonantal y to substitute 
i : w is also used as a vowel, but only in diphthongs (dw, ew, iw, 
mo) ; in other respects the system agrees fairly well with the 
standard adopted elsewhere. Primers for the study of the 
language were printed at Calcutta in 1846 and 1852, and in 
1855 appeared the excellent "Introduction to the Khasia 
language, comprising a grammar, selections for reading, and a 
Khasi-English vocabulary/' of the Rev. W. Pryse. There now 
exists a somewhat extensive literature in Khasi, both religious 
and secular. An exhaustive grammar, by the Rev. H. Roberts, 
was published in Triibner's series of " Simplified Grammars " in 
1891, and there are dictionaries, English-Khasi (1875) and 
Khasi-English (1906), besides many other aids to the study of 
the language which need not be mentioned here. It is 
recognised by the Calcutta University as sufficiently cultivated 

1 Vol. xiii., pp. 612 sqq. * Pp. 272 sqq. 



to be offered for the examinations of that body. Two monthly 
periodicals are published in it at Shillong, to which place the 
headquarters of the district were removed from Cherrapunji in 
1864, and which has been the permanent seat of the Assam 
Government since the Province was separated from Bengal in 

The isolation of the Khasi race, in the midst of a great 
encircling population all of whom belong to the Tibeto-Burman 
stock, and the remarkable features presented by their language 
and institutions, soon attracted the attention of comparative 
philologists and ethnologists. An account of their researches 
will be found in Dr. Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India, 
vol. ii. Here it will be sufficient to mention the important work 
of Mr. J. R. Logan, who, in a series of papers published at 
Singapore between 1850 and 1857 in the Journal of the Indian 
Archipelago (of which he was the editor) demonstrated the 
relationship which exists between the Khasis and certain 
peoples of Further India, the chief representatives of whom are 
the Mons or Takings of Pegu and Tenasserirn, the Khmers of 
Cambodia, and the majority of the inhabitants of Annam. He 
was even able, through the means of vocabularies furnished to 
him by the late Bishop Bigandet, to discover the nearest 
kinsmen of the Khasis in the Palaungs, a tribe inhabiting one 
of the Shan States to the north-east of Mandalay on the 
middle Salween. With the progress of research it became 
apparent that the Mon-Khmer group of Indo-China thus 
constituted, to which the Khasis belong, was in some way 
connected with the large linguistic family in the Indian 
Peninsula once called Kolarian, but now more generally known 
as Munda, who inhabit the hilly region of Chutia Nagpur and 
parts of the Satpura range in the Central Provinces. Of these 
tribes the principal are the Santhals, the Mundas, and the 
Korkus. In physical characters they differ greatly from the 
Indo-Chinese Khasis, but the points of resemblance in their 
languages and in some of their institutions cannot be denied ; 
and the exact nature of the relation between them is as yet one 
of the unsolved problems of ethnology. 

The work of Logan was carried further by Prof. Ernst Kuhn, 
of Munich, who in 1883 and 1889 published important con- 


tributions to our knowledge of the languages and peoples of 
Further India. More recently our acquaintance with the 
phonology of Khasi and its relatives has been still further 
advanced by the labours of Pater W. Schmidt, of Vienna, whose 
latest work, Die Mon-Khmer Volker, ein Bindeglied zwischen 
Volkern Zentralasiens und Austronesiens (Braunschweig, 1906), 
has established the relationship of Khasi not only to the Mon- 
Khmer languages, but also to Nicobarese and several dialects 
spoken by wild tribes in the Malay Peninsula. 

There still remains much to be done before the speech of the 
Khasi nation can be considered to have been thoroughly 
investigated. In the Linguistic Survey four dialects are dealt 
with, the standard literary form, founded on the language of 
Cherrapunji, the Pnar } or Synteng, of Jowai, the War, spoken 
in the valleys on the southern face of the hills, and the 
Lyngngdm, spoken in the tract adjacent to the Garos on the 
west. Major Gurdon (p. 203) mentions a fifth, that of Jirang 
or Mynnar, spoken in the extreme north, and there may be 
others. A great desideratum for linguistic purposes is a more 
adequate method of recording sounds, and especially differences 
of tone, than that adopted for the standard speech, which 
though sufficient for practical purposes, does not accurately 
represent either the quantity or the quality of the vowels, and 
leaves something to be desired as regards the consonants 
(especially those only faintly sounded or suppressed). These 
things, no doubt, will come in time. The immense advance 
which has been made in education by the Khasis during the 
last half-century has enabled some among them to appreciate 
the interesting field for exploration and study which their own 
country and people afford ; and there is reason to hope that with 
European guidance the work of record will progress by the 
agency of indigenous students. 

It remains to summarise briefly the principal distinctive 
features of this vigorous and sturdy race, who have preserved 
their independence and their ancestral institutions through 
many centuries in the face of the attractions offered by the alien 
forms of culture around them. 

In the first place, their social organisation presents one of 
the most perfect examples still surviving of matriarchal insti- 


tutions, carried out with a logic and thoroughness which, to those 
accustomed to regard the status and authority of the father 
as the foundation of society > are exceedingly remarkable. Not 
only is the mother the head and source, and only bond of union, 
of the family: in the most primitive part of the hills, the 
Synteng country, she is the only owner of real property, and 
through her alone is inheritance transmitted. The father has 
no kinship with his children, who belong to their mother's clan ; 
what he earns goes to his own matriarchal stock, and at his 
death his bones are deposited in the cromlech of his mother's 
kin. In Jowai he neither lives nor eats in his wife's house, but 
visits it only after dark (p. 76). In the veneration of ancestors, 
which is the foundation of the tribal piety, the primal ancestress 
(Ka Idwbei) and her brother are the only persons regarded. 
The flat memorial stones set up to perpetuate the memory of 
the dead are called after the woman who represents the clan 
(maw kynfhei, p. 152), and the standing stones ranged behind 
them are dedicated to the male kinsmen on the mother's 

In harmony with this scheme of ancestor worship, the other 
spirits to whom propitiation is offered are mainly female, 
though here male personages also figure (pp. 109 113). The 
powers of sickness and death are all female, and these are those 
most frequently worshipped (p. 109). The two protectors of 
the household are goddesses (p. 114), though with them is also 
revered the first father of the clan, U Thawlang. 

Priestesses assist at all sacrifices, and the male officiants are 
only their deputies (p. 121); in one important State, Khyrim, 
the High Priestess and actual head of the State is a woman, 
who combines in her person sacerdotal and regal functions 
(p. 70). 

The Khasi language, so far as known, is the only member of 
the Mon-Khmer family which possesses a grammatical gender, 
distinguishing all nouns as masculine and feminine ; and here 
also the feminine nouns immensely preponderate (p. 209). The 
pronouns of the second (me pha) and third person (u. ka) have 
separate forms for the sexes in the singular, but in the plural 
only one is used (phi, ki), and this is the plural form of the 
feminine singular. 


It may perhaps be ascribed to the pre-eminence accorded by 
the Khasis to the female sex that successive censuses have 
shown that the women of this race considerably exceed the 
men in number. According to the census of 1901, there are 
1,118 females to every 1,000 male Khasis. This excess, how- 
ever, is surpassed by that of the Lushais, 1,191 to 1,000, and it 
may possibly be due to the greater risks to life encountered 
by the men, who venture far into the plains as traders and 
porters, while the women stay at home. Habits of intemper- 
ance, which are confined to the male sex, may also explain a 
greater mortality among them. 

It would be interesting to investigate the effect on reproduc- 
tion of the system of matriarchy which governs Khasi family life. 
The increase of the race is very slow. In the census of 1891 there 
were enumerated only 117 children under 5 to every hundred 
married women between 15 and 40, and in 1901 this number 
fell to 108. It has been suggested that the independence of 
the wife, and the facilities which exist for divorce, lead to 
restrictions upon child-bearing, and thus keep the population 
stationary. The question might with advantage be examined 
at the census of 1911. 

The next characteristic of the Khasis which marks them out 
for special notice is their method of divination for ascertaining 
the causes of misfortune and the remedies to be applied. All 
forms of animistic religion make it their chief business to avert 
the wrath of the gods, to which calamities of all kinds sickness, 
storm, murrain, loss of harvest are ascribed, by same kind of 
propitiation ; and in this the Khasis are not singular. But 
it is somewhat surprising to find among them the identical 
method of extispicium which was in use among the Romans, as 
well as an analogous development in the shape of egg-breaking 
fully described by Major Gurdon (p. 226), which seems to have 
been known to diviners in ancient Hellas. 1 This method has 
(with much else in Khasi practice) been adopted by the former 
subjects of the Khasis, the Mikirs ; but it does not appear to 
be prevalent among any other of the animistic tribes within 
the boundaries of India. 

1 Called (poffKovia. ; one of the lost books of the Orphic cycle waa entitled 


The third remarkable feature of Khasi usage is the custom, 
which prevails to this day, of setting up great memorials of 
rough stone, of the same style and character as the menhirs and 
cromlechs which are found in Western Europe, Northern Africa, 
and Western Asia. It is very surprising to a visitor, unprepared 
for the sight by previous information, to find himself on arrival 
at the plateau in the midst of great groups of standing and 
table stones exactly like those he may have seen in Brittany, 
the Channel Islands, the south of England, or the Western 
Isles. Unfortunately the great earthquake of June 1897 overthrew 
many of the finest of these megalithic monuments ; but several 
still remain, and of these Major Gurdon has given an excellent 
description (pp. 144 sqq.}, with an explanation of the different 
forms which they assume and the objects with which they arc 
erected. Other races in India besides the Khasis set up stone 
memorials ; but none, perhaps, to the same extent or with the 
same systematic purpose and arrangement. 

In conclusion, I have only to commend this work to the con- 
sideration of all interested in the accurate and detailed 
description of primitive custom. I lived myself for many years 
among the Khasis, and endeavoured to find out what I could 
about them ; but much of what Major Gurdon records is new to 
me, though the book generally agrees with what I was able to 
gather of their institutions and characteristics. It is, I think, 
an excellent example of research, and well fitted to stand at the, 
head of a series which may be expected to make an important 
contribution to the data of anthropology. 


Nnvembtr. 1 OOfi. 


Agricultural Bulletin 
Allen, B. C. . 
Allen, W. J. . 

Aymonier, Monsieur. 
Bivar, Colonel H. S. 

Buchanan Hamilton . 

Dalton, Colonel E. T. 
Gait, E. A. 

Grierson, Sir George . 
Grierson, Sir George . 

Henniker, F. C. 

Hooker, Sir Joseph . 
Hunter, Sir William. 
Jeebon Roy, U. 
Jenkins, The Rev. Mr. 
Khasi Mynta , 

Kuhn, Professor E. . 
Kuhn, Professor E. . 

No. 5 of 1898. 

Assam Census Report, 1901. 

Report on the Khasi and Jaintia Hill 

Territory, 1858. 
"Le Cambodge." 
Administration Report on the Khasi 

and Jaintia Hills District of 1876. 
"Eastern India.'' Edited by Mont- 
gomery Martin. 

" Descriptive Ethnology of Bengal." 
" Human Sacrifices in Assam/' vol. i., 

J.A.S.B. of 1898. 

" Linguistic Survey of India," vol. ii. 
Review of Pater P. W. Schmidt's " Die 

Mon-Khmer-Volker, ein Bindeglied 

zwrischen Volkern Zentralasiens und 

Monograph on gold and silver wares in 


. Himalayan Journals. 
Statistical Account of Assam. 
Ka Niam Khasi. 
"Life and Work in Khasia." 
A monthly journal published at Shillong 

in the Khasi language. 
. Ueber Herkunft uiid Sprache der tratis- 

gangetischen Volker. 1883. 
. fieitrdge zur Sprachenkunde //inter - 

indiens. 1889. 


Lindsay, Lord . . . " Laves of the Lindsays." 

Logan, J. R. . .A series of papers on the Ethnology of 

the Indo - Pacific Islands which 
appeared in the Journal of the 
Indian Archipelago. 

Mackenzie, Sir Alexander. Account of the North-Eastern Frontier. 

McSwiney, J. . . . Assam Census Tables, 1911. 

Mills, A. J. M. . . Report on the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, 


Nissor Singh, U. . . Hints on the study of the Khasi lan- 

Nissor Singh, U. . . Khasi-English dictionary. 

Oldham, Thomas . . On the geological structure of a portion 

of the Khasi Hills, Bengal. 

Oldham, Thomas . . Geology of the Khasi Hills. 

Peal, S. E. . . . On some traces of the Kol-Mon-Anam 

in the Eastern Naga Hills. 

Pryse, Rev. W. , . Introduction to the Khasia language, 

comprising a grammar, selections for 
reading, and a vocabulary. 

Records of the Eastern Bengal and Assam Secretariat. 

Roberts, The Rev. H. . Khasi grammar. 

Robinson .... Assam. 

Scott, Sir George . . Upper Burma Gazetteer. 

Shadwell, J. B. . . Notes on the Khasis. 

Stack, E. . . . . Note on silk in Assam. 

Waddell, Colonel . . Account of the Assam tribes. J. A. S.B. 

Ward, Sir William . . Introduction to the Assam Land 

Revenue Manual. 

Weinberg, E. . . . Report on Excise in Assam. 

Yule, Sir Henry . . Notes on the Khasi Hills and people. 




THE Khasis reside in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills district of 
Assam. They number 161,865 souls, excluding Khasi Christians 
which total is made up of : 

Khasi aniraists in the Khasi Hills District .... 116,064 

Khasi animists in other districts 3,656 

Synteng animists in Khasi and Jaintia Hills District . . 42,125 

Synteng animists in other districts 20 


The Census Tables of 1911 do not show separately the number 
of Khasi Christians, but they show 28,245 Indian Presbyterians 
resident in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The greater proportion 
of this number consists of Khasi Christians. (There has been a 
very great increase in fche number of Khasi converts to Christian- 
ity during the last decad^ 

jiThe Khasi and Jaintia Hills district is situated between 
25 1' and 26 5' North Latitude, and between 90 47' and 92 52' 
East Longitude. It contains an area of 6,157 square miles, 
with a total population at the Census of 1901 of 235,069 souls. 
In addition to the Khasis there are some members of Bodo 
tribes inhabiting parts of the district.) 

As at the Census of 1901, there was in 1911 no separate 
enumeration of the Lynngam sub-tribe. 



jFhe district is split up into two divisions, the Khasi Hills 
proper and the Jaintia Hills. The Khasi Hills form the 
western portion of the district and the Jaintia Hills the 
eastern. \ The Khasis inhabit the Khasi Hills proper, and the 
Syntengs, or Pnars, the Jaintia Hills. The latter hills take 
their name from the Rajas of Jaintia, the former rulers of this 
part of the country, who had as their capital Jaintiapur, a 
place situated at the foot of the Jaintia Hills on the southern 
side, which now falls within the boundaries of the Sylhefc 
district. The Lynngams inhabit the western portion of the 
Khasi Hills proper. A line drawn north and south through the 
village of Nongstoin may be said to form their eastern boundary, 
and the Kamrup and Sylhet districts their northern and 
southern boundaries, respectively. The people known as Bhois 
in these hills, who are many of them really Mikirs, live in the low 
hills to the north and north-east of the district, the term 
" Bhoi " being a territorial name rather than tribal. The 
eastern boundary of the Lynngam country may be said to 
form their north-western boundary. The Wars inhabit the 
precipitous slopes and deep valleys to the south of the district. 
Their country extends along the entire southern boundary of 
the district to the Jadukdtd, or Kenchi-iong, river where the 
Lynngam territory may be said to commence towards the 
south. There are some Hadem colonies in the extreme eastern 
portions of the Jaintia Hills. It is these colonies which are 
sometimes referred to by other writers as " Kuki Colonies/' 
They are settlers from the North Cachar Sub-division of the 
Cachar district within recent years. It is possible that the 
title Hadem may have some connection with Hidimba, the 
ancient name for the North Cachar Hills. 


*!he colour of the Khasi skin may be described as being usually 
brown, varying from dark to a light yellowish-brown, according 
to locality.^ The complexion of the people who inhabit the 
uplands is of a somewhat lighter shade, and many of the 
women, especially those who live at Nongkrem, Laitlyngkot, 
Mawphlang, and other villages of the surrounding high plateaux, 

From A sketch by the Luc Colonel Woodthorpe, R.E, 


possess that pretty gipsy complexion that is seen in the South 
of Europe amongst the peasants. The people of Cherrapunji 
village are specially fair. The Syntengs of the Jaintia Hills 
are darker than the Khasi uplanders. The Wars who live in 
the low valleys are frequently more swarthy than the Khasis. 
The Bhois have the flabby-looking yellow skin of the Mikirs, 
and the Lynngams are darker than the Khasis. The Lynngams 
are probably the darkest complexioned people in the hills, and 
if one met them in the plains one would not be able to distin- 
guish them from the ordinary Kachari or Rabha. ^Jhe nose in 
the Khasi is somewhat depressed, the nostrils^being often large 
and prominent. The forehead is broad and the space between 
the eyes is often considerable. The skull may be said to be 
almost brachy-cephalic, the average cephalic index of 77 Khasi 
subjects, measured by Col. Waddell and Lieut. Colonel Hare, 
I.M.S., being as high as 77*3 and 77*9, respectively^) According 
to these data the Khasis are more brachy-cephalic than the 
Aryans, whose measurements appear in Crooke's tables, more 
brachy-cephalic than the 100 Mundas whose measurements 
appear in Risley's tables, more brachy-cephalic than the 
Dravidians, but less brachy-cephalic than the Burmans, whose 
measurements also appear in Crooke's tables. It would be 
interesting to compare some head measurements of Khasis with 
Japanese, but unfortunately the necessary data are not available 
in the case of the latter people. /*The Khasi head may be sty led 
sub-brachy-cephalic. JSyes are of medium size, in colour black 
or brown.) In the Jaintia Hills hazel eyes are not uncommon, 
especially amongst females. / Eyelids are somewhat obliquely 
set, but not so acutely as in the Chinese and some other Mongols. 
Jaws frequently are prognathous, mouth large, with sometimes 
rather thick lips. Hair black, straight, and wornjong, the hair 
of people who adopt the old style being caught up in a knot 
at the back. Some males cut the hair short with the exception 
of a single lock at the back, which is called u niuhtrong or 
iTniuk- iawbei (i.e. the grandmother's lock). ( The forepart of 
the head is~often shaven. I^_i_5i u i^ e t ne exception to see a 
beard, although the moustache is not infrequently worm The 
Lynngams pull out the hairs of the moustache with the exception 
of a few hairs on either side of the upper lip. 

B 2 



he^ Khasis are usually short in stature, with bodies well 
nourished, and the males are extremely muscular. The trunk 
is long in proportion to the rest" of the body, and broad at the 
waist; calves are very highly developed. The women when 
young are comely, of a buxom type, and, like the men, with 
highly-developed calves, the latter being considered always a 
beauty.) The children are frequently remarkably pretty. 
Khasis carry very heavy burdens, it being the custom for the 
coolie of the country to carry a maund} or 82 Ibs. weight, 01 
even more occasionally, on his back, the load being fixed by 
means of a cane band which is worn across the forehead; 
women carry almost as heavy loads as the men. The coolies, 
both male and female, commonly do the journey between 
Cherrapunji and Shillong, or between Shillong and Jowai, 
in one day, carrying the heavy loads above mentioned. Each 
of the above journeys is some thirty miles. They carry their 
great loads of rice and salt from Therria to Cherrapunji, an 
ascent of about 4,000 feet in some three to four miles, in the 
day. VThe Khasis are probably the best porters in the north of 
India, and have frequently been requisitioned for transport 
purposes on military expeditions^ 

^The people are cheerful in disposition, and are light- 
hearted by nature, and, unlike the plains people, seem to 
thoroughly appreciate a joke.\ It is pleasant to hear on the 
road down to Theriaghat from Cherrapunji, in the early morn- 
ing, the whole hillside resounding with the scraps of song and 
peals of laughter of the coolies, as they run nimbly down the 
short cuts on their way to market. The women are specially 
cheerful, and pass the time of day and bandy jokes with pa&sers- 
by with quite an absence of reserve. The Khasis are certainly 
more industrious than the Assamese, are generally good- 
tempered, but are occasionally prone to sudden outbursts of 
anger, accompanied by violence. vJThey are fond of music, and 
rapidly learn the h^mn tunes which are taught them by the 
Welsh missionaries/ Khasis are devoted to their offspring, 

From a drawing by Miss Kircnc Scott O'Connor 


and the women make excellent nurses for European children, 
frequently becoming much attached to their little charges. 
The people, like the Japanese, are fond of nature. A Khasi 
loves a day out in the woods, where he thoroughly enjoys 
himself. If he does not go out shooting or fishing, he is con- 
tent to sit still and contemplate nature. He has a separate 
name for each of the commoner birds and flowers. He also 
has names for many butterflies and moths. These are traits 
which are not found usually in the people of India. He is 
not above manual labour, and even the Khasi clerk in the 
Government offices is quite ready to take his turn at the hoe 
in his potato garden. The men make excellent stonemasons 
and carpenters, and are ready to learn fancy carpentry and 
mechanical work. They are inveterate chewers of supari and _ 
the pan leaf (when they can get the latter), both men, women, 
and children ; distances in the interior being often measured 
by the number of betel-nuts that are usually chewed on a 
journey. They are not addicted usually to the use of opium 
or other intoxicating drugs. They are, however, hard drinkers, 
and consume large quantities of spirit distilled from rice or 
millet. Rice beer is also manufactured ; this is used not only 
as a beverage, but for ceremonial purposes. Spirit drinking 
is confined more to the inhabitants of the high plateaux and 
to the people of the W&r country, the Bhois and Lynngams 
being content to partake of rice beer. The Mikirs who inhabit 
what is known as the " Bhoi " country, lying to the north of the 
district, consume a good deal of opium, but it must be remem- 
bered that they reside in a malarious terai country, and that 
the use of opium, or some other prophylactic, is probably 
beneficial as a preventive of fever. The Khasis, like other 
people of Indo-Chinese origin, are much addicted to gambling. 
The people, and especially those who inhabit the Wdr country, 
are fond of litigation. Col. Bivar remarks, " As regards truth- 
fulness the people do not excel, for they rarely speak the 
truth unless to suit their own interests." Col. Bivar might 
have confined this observation to the people who live in the 
larger centres of population, or who have been much in con- 
tact with the denizens of the plains. The inhabitants of the 
far interior are, as a rule, simple and straightforward people, 


and are quite as truthful and honest as peasants one meets in 
other countries. My impression is that the Khasis are not 
less truthful certainly than other Indian communities. McCosh, 
writing in 1837, speaks well of the Khasis. The following 
is his opinion of them : " They are a powerful, athletic race 
of men, rather below the middle size, with a manliness of 
gait and demeanour. They are fond of their mountains, and 
look down with contempt upon the degenerate race of the 
plains, jealous of their power, brave in action, and have an 
aversion to falsehood." 

Khasis of the interior who have adopted Christianity are 
generally cleaner in their persons than the non-Christians, 
and their women dress better than the latter and have an air 
of self-respect about them. The houses in a Christian village 
are also far superior, especially where there are resident Euro- 
pean missionaries. Khasis who have become Christians often 
take to religion with much earnestness (witness the recent 
religious revival in these hills, which is estimated by the Welsh 
missionaries to have added between 4,000 and 5,000 converts to 
Christianity), and are model Sabbatarians, it being a pleasing 
sight to see men, women, and children trooping to church on 
a Sunday dressed in their best, and with quite the Sunday 
expression on their faces one sees in England. It is a pleasure 
to hear the sound of the distant church bell on the hill-side on 
a Sunday evening, soon to be succeeded by the beautiful Welsh 
hymn tunes which, when wafted across the valleys, carry one's 
thoughts far away. The Welsh missionaries have done, and 
continue to do, an immense amount of good amongst these 
people. It would be an evil day for the Khasis if anything 
should occur to arrest the progress of the mission work in the 
Khasi Hills. 


The Khasis inhabit the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, although 
there are a few Khasi settlers in the neighbouring plains 
districtsJ The Census Report of 1911 gives the following 
figures 01 Khasi residents in the plains : 




Goalpara .......... 1 

Kamrup ..... "..".". 383 

I>arrang ........... 84 

Nowgong .......... 72 

Sibsagar .... ..... 22 

Lakhimpur ..... ..... 55 

Lushai Hills ...... 45 

Naga Hills ... ' ' ! ' 44 

Garo Hills .......... 1 

Manipur .......... 7 

Total .......... 4,59V 1 

There are the following Syntengs resident in the plains : 
Cachar 4, Sylhet 15, Naga Hills 1. 

The following information regarding the general aspect of 
the Khasi and Jaintia Hills district, with some additions, is 
derived from Sir William Hunter's Statistical Account of 
Assam. / The district consists almost entirely of hills, only a 
very small portion lying in the plains. The slope of the hills 
on the southern side is very steep until a table-land is met 
with at an elevation of about 4,000 feet at Cherrapunji. 
Higher up there is another plateau at Mawphlang. This is the 
highest portion of the hills, some villages being found at as high 
an elevation as close on 6,000 feet above sea level. Fifteen 
miles to the east of Mawphlang, and in the same range, is 
situated the civil station of Shillong, at an average elevation of 
about 4,900 feet. The elevation of the Shillong Peak, the 
highest hill in the district, is 6,450 feet above sea level. On 
the northern side of the hills are two plateaux, one between 
1,000 and 2,000 feet below the level of Shillong, and another 
at an elevation of about 2,000 feet above sea level. In general 
features all these plateaux are much alike, and consist of a 
succession of undulating downs, broken here and there by the 
valleys of the larger hill streams. In the higher ranges, where 
the hills have been denuded of forest, the country is covered 
with short grass, which becomes longer and more rank in the 
lower elevations. This denudation of forest has been largely 
due to the wood being used by the Khasis for fuel for iron 
smelting in days gone by. The Government, however, has 

1 The figures for Khasi population in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills district 
will be found on p. 1. 


taken steps to protect the remaining forests from further 
spoliation. A remarkable feature is the presence of numerous 
sacred groves situated generally just below the brows of the 
hills. In these woods are to be found principally oak and 
rhododendron trees. The fir-tree (Pinus Khasia) is first met 
with on the road from Gauhati to Shillong, at Umsning, at an 
elevation of about 2,500 feet. In the neighbourhood of Shillong 
the fir grows profusely, but the finest fir-trees are to be seen 
in the Jowai sub-division. In the vicinity of Nongpoh is 
observed the beautiful nahor or nageswar, the iron-wood tree. 
The latter is also to be found on the southern slopes of the 
hills in the Jowai sub-division. There are some sal forests to 
the west and south of Nongpoh, where the sal trees are almost 
as large as those to be found in the Garo Hills. Between 
Shillong and Jowai there are forests of oak, the country being 
beautifully wooded. Chestnuts and birches are also fairly 
common, The low hills on the northern and western sides of 
the district are clad with dense forests of bamboo, of which 
there are many varieties. The pandanus or screw-pine is to 
be met with on the southern slopes. Regarding the geological 
formation of the hills, I extract a few general remarks from the 
Physical and Political Geography of Assam. The Shillong 
plateau consists of a great mass of gneiss, bare on the northern 
border, where it is broken into hills, for the most part low and 
very irregular in outline, with numerous outliers in the Lower 
Assam Valley, even close up to the Himalayas. In the central 
region the gneiss is covered by transition or sub-metamorphic 
rocks, consisting of a strong band of quartzites overlying a 
mass of earthy schists. In the very centre of the range, where 
the table-land attains its highest elevation, great masses of 
intrusive diorite and granite occur ; and the latter is found in 
dykes piercing the gneiss and sub-metamorphic series through- 
out the southern half of the boundary of the plains. To the 
south, in contact with the gneiss and sub-metamorphics is a 
great volcanic outburst of trap, which is stratified, and is 
brought to the surface with the general rise of elevation along 
the face of the hills between Sheila and Theriaghat south of 
Cherrapunji. This has been described as the " Sylhet trap/' 
South of the main axis of this metamorphic and volcanic mass 

From a photograph by Mrs. Muriel 


are to be found strata of two , well defined series : (1) the 
cretaceous, and (2) nummulitic. The cretaceous contains several 
important coalfields. The nummulitic series, which overlies the 
cretaceous, attains a thickness of 900 feet in the Theria river, 
consisting of alternating strata of compact limestones and sand- 
stones. It is at the exposure of these rocks on their downward 
dip from the edge of the plateau that are situated the extensive 
limestone quarries of the Khasi Hills. There are numerous 
limestone caves and underground water-courses on the southern 
face of the hills. This series contains coal-beds, e.g. the Cherra- 
field and that at Lakadong in the Jaintia Hills. Some descrip- 
tion of the remarkable Kyllang Rock may not be out of place. 
Sir Joseph Hooker describes it as a dome of red granite, 5,400 
feet above sea level, accessible from the north and east, but 
almost perpendicular to the southward where the slope is 80 
for 600 feet. The elevation is said by Hooker to be 400 feet 
above the mean level of the surrounding ridges and 700 feet 
above the bottom of the valleys. The south or steepest side is 
encumbered with enormous detached blocks, while the north is 
clothed with forests containing red tree-rhododendrons and 
oaks. Hooker says that on its skirts grows a "white bushy 
rhododendron" which he found nowhere else. There is, however, 
a specimen of it now in the Shillong Lake garden. Numerous 
orchids are to be found in the Kyllang wood, notably a beautiful 
white one, called by the Khasis u'tiw kyllang synrai, which 
blooms in the autumn. The view from the top of the rock is 
very extensive, especially towards the north, where a magnificent 
panorama of the Himalayas is obtained in the autumn. [ The 
most remarkable phenomenon of any kind in the countrjr is 
undoubtedly the enormous quantity of rain which falls at 
Cherrapunji. 1 Practically the whole of the rainfall occurs in 
the rains, i.e. from May to October. The remainder of the 
district is less rainy. The climate of the central plateau of the 
Shillong range is very salubrious, but the low hills in parts of 

1 The average rainfall at the Cherrapunji Police Station during the last 
twenty years, from figures obtained from the office of the Director of Land 
Records and Agriculture, has been 448 inches. The greatest rainfall 
registered in any one year during the period was in 1899, when it amounted 
to 641 inches. 


the district are malarious. The effect of the different climates 
can be seen at once by examining the physique of the inhabi- 
tants. The Khasis who live in the high central plateaux are 
exceptionally healthy and strong, but those who live in the 
unhealthy " Bhoi " country to the north, and in the Lynngam 
portion to the west of the district, are often stunted and sickly. 
Not so, however, the WArs who live on the southern slopes, for 
although their country is very hot at certain times of the year, 
it does not appear to be abnormally unhealthy except in certain 
villages, such as Sheila, Borpunji, Umniuh, and in Narpuh in 
the Jaintia Hills. 


The origin of the Khasis is a very vexed question. Although 
it is probable that the Khasis have inhabited their present 
abode for at any rate a considerable period, there seems to be a 
fairly general belief amongst them that they originally came 
from elsewhere. #The Rev. H. Roberts, in the introduction to 
his Khasi Grammar, states that " tradition, such as it is, connects 
them politically with the Burmese, to whose king they were up 
to a comparatively recent date rendering homage, by sending 
him an annual tribute in the shape of an axe, as an emblem 
merely of submission." Another tradition points out the north 
as the direction from which they migrated, and Sylhet as the 
terminus of their wanderings, from which they were ultimately 
driven back into their present hill fastnesses by a great flood, 
after a more or less peaceful occupation of that district. It 
was on the occasion of this great flood, the legend runs, that the 
Khasi lost the art of writing, the Khasi losing his book whilst 
he was swimming at the time of this flood, whereas the Bengali 
managed to preserve his. Owing to the Khasis having possessed 
no written character before the advent of the Welsh mission- 
aries, there are no histories as is the case with the Ahoms of 
the Assam Valley, and therefore no record of their journeys. 
Mr. Shadwell, the oldest living authority we had on the 
Khasis, and one who was in close touch with the people for 
more than half a century, mentioned a tradition amongst them 
that they originally came into Assam from Burma vid the 


Patkoi range, having followed the route of one of the Burmese 
invasions. Mr. Shadwell heard them mention the name 
Patkoi as a hill they met with on their journey. All this sort of 
thing is, however, inexpressibly vague. In the chapter dealing 
with " Affinities " have been given some reasons for supposing 
that the Khasis and other tribes of the Mon-Anam 1 family 
originally occupied a large portion of the Indian continent. 
Where the actual cradle of the Mon-Anam race was, is as 
impossible to state, as it is to fix upon the exact tract of country 
from which the Aryans sprang. 2 With reference to the Khasi 
branch of the Mon-Anam family, it would seem reasonable to 
suppose that if they are not the autochthons of a portion of 
the hills on the southern bank of the Brahmaputra, and if they 
migrated to Assam from some other country, it is not unlikely 
that they followed the direction of the different irruptions of 
foreign peoples into Assam of which we have authentic data, i.e. 
from south-east to north-west, as was the case with the Ahom 
invaders of Assam who invaded Assam from their settlements 
in the Shan States via the Patkoi range, the different Burmese 
invasions, the movements of the Khamtis and, again, the Sing- 
phos, from the country to the east of the Hukong Valley. 
Whether the first cousins of the Khasis, the Mons, moved to 
their present abode from China, whether they are the aborigines 
of the portion of Burma they at present occupy, or were one 
of the races " of Turanian origin " who, as Forbes thinks, origi- 
nally occupied the valley of the Ganges before the Aryan 
invasion, must be left to others more qualified than myself to 
determine. Further, it is difficult to clear up the mystery of the 
survival, in an isolated position, of people like the Ho-Mundas, 
whose language and certain customs exhibit points of similarity 
with those of the Khasis, in close proximity to the Dravidian 
tribes and at a great distance from the Khasis, there being no 
people who exhibit similar characteristics inhabiting countries 
situated in between ; but we can, I think, reasonably suppose 

1 I have allowed the words Mon-Anam to stand here, and elsewhere in this 
monograph, until Pater Schmidt's Austric theory has been thoroughly 
examined from the point of view of anthropology. 

2 Some remarks on this question of origin may be seen in the section 
dealing with language where the Austrio theory of language propounded by 
Pater Schmidt of Vienna will be referred to. 



that the Khasis are an offshoot of the Mon people of Further 
India in the light of the historical fact I have quoted, i.e. that 
the movements of races into Assam have usually, although not 
invariably, taken place from the east, and not from the west. 
The tendency for outside people to move into Assam from the 
east still continues. 


The late Mr. S. E. Peal, F.R.G.S., in an interesting and 
suggestive paper published in the Journal of the Asiatic Society 
of Bengal in 1896, drew attention to certain illustrations of 
" singular shoulder-headed celts," found only in the Malay Penin- 
sula till the year 1875, when they were also discovered in Chota 
Nagpur, and figured in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of 
Bengal for June of that year. These " celts " are, as the name 
implies, ancient stone implements. Mr. Peal goes on to state 
the interesting fact that when he was at Ledo and Tikak, Naga 
villages, east of Makum, on the south-east frontier of the 
Lakhimpur district of Assam, in 1895, he found iron implements, 
miniature hoes, used by the Nagas, of a similar shape to the 

" shoulder-headed celts " which 
had been found in the Malay 
Peninsula and Chota Nagpur. 
Now the peculiarly shaped 
Khasi hoe or mo-khiw, a sketch 
of which is given, with its far 
projecting shoulders, is merely an 
enlarged edition of the Naga hoe 
described by Peal, and may there- 
fore be regarded as a modern 
representative in iron, although 
on an enlarged scale, of the 
" shoulder-headed celts." Another 
interesting point is that, accord- 
ing to Forbes, the Burmese name 
for these stone celts is mo-gyo. 

Now the Khasi name for the hoe is mo-khiw. The similarity 
between the two words seems very great. Forbes says the 
name mo-gyo in Burmese means " cloud or sky chain," which 


he interprets " thunderbolt/ 1 the popular belief there, as in 
other countries, being that these implements fell from heaven. 
Although the Khasi name mo-Jchiw has no connection what- 
soever with aerolites, it is a singular coincidence that 
the name for the Khasi hoe of the present day should 
almost exactly correspond with the Burmese name for the 
implement 1 found in Burma and the Malay Peninsula, and 
when it is remembered that these stone celts are of a 
different shape from that of the stone implements which have 
been found in India (with the exception of Chota Nagpur) 
there would seem to be some grounds for believing that the 
Khasis are connected with people who inhabited the Malay 
Peninsula and Chota Nagpur at the time of the Stone 
Age. 2 That these people were what Logan calls the Mon-Anam 
may possibly be the case. Mr. Peal goes on to state, " the dis- 
covery is interesting for other reasons, it possibly amounts to 
a demonstration that Logan (who it is believed was the first to 
draw attention to the points of resemblance between the 
languages of the Mon-Anam or Mon-Khmer and those of the 
Mundas and the Khasis) was correct in assuming that at one 
time the Mon-Anam races and influence extended from the 
Vindyas all over the Ganges Basin, even over Assam, the 
northern Border of the Ultra Indian Peninsula." Mr. Peal 
then remarks that the Eastern Nagas of the Tirap, Namstik, 
and Sonkap group " are strikingly like them (i.e. the Mon- 
Anam races), in many respects, the women being particularly 
robust, with pale colour and at times rosy cheeks." The 
interesting statement follows that the men wear the Khasi- 
Mikir sleeveless coat. Under the heading of dress this will be 

1 It is gathered from the remarks of M. Aymonier (vide the footnote below) 
that these celts belong to the neolithic period. 

2 It is interesting to compare the remarks of M. Aymonier in his volume iii. 
of Le Cambodge. He writes as follows:" Mais en Indo-Chine on trouve, 
partout dissemine, ce que les indigenes, au Carabodge du moms, appellent, 
comme les peuples les plus eloignes du globe ' les traits de foudre.' Ce sont 
ici des haches de Tage ne*olithique ou de la pierre polie, dont la plupart appar- 
tiennent au type repandu en toute la terre. D'autres de ces celtes, dits epaules, 
parcequ'ils possedent un talon d'une forme particuliere, paraissent appartenir 
en propre & PIndo-Chine et a la presqu'ile dekkhanique. Its fourniraient 
done un premier indice, non negligeable, d'une comraunaute d'origine des 
populations primitives des deux p^ninaules, cis- et transgangetiques." 


found described as a garment which leaves the neck and arms 
bare, with a fringe at the bottom and with a row of tassels 
across the chest, the coat being fastened by frogs in front. It 
is a garment of a distinctive character and cannot be mistaken ; 
it used to be worn largely by the Khasis, and is still used 
extensively by the Syntengs and Lynngams and by the Mikirs, 
and that it should have been found amongst these Eastern 
Nagas is certainly remarkable. It is to be regretted that the 
investigations of the Ethnographical Survey, as at present 
conducted, have not extended to these Eastern Nagas, who 
inhabit tracts either outside British territory or in very remote 
places on its confines, so that we are at present unable to state 
whether any of these tribes possess other points of affinity, as 
regards social customs, with the Khasis ; but it will be noticed 
in the chapter dealing with memorial stones that some of the 
Naga tribes are in the habit of erecting monoliths somewhat 
similar in character to those of the Khasis, and that the Mikirs 
(who wear the Khasi sleeveless coat), erect memorial stones 
exactly similar to those of the Khasis. The evidence seems to 
suggest a theory that the Mon-Anam race, including of course 
the Khasis, occupied at one time a much larger area in the 
mountainous country to the south of the Brahmaputra in Assam 
than it does at present. Further references will be found to 
this point in the section dealing with memorial stones. The 
fact that the Ho-Mundas of Chota Nagpur also erect memorial 
stones and that they possess death customs very similar to those 
of the Khasis, has also been noticed in the same chapter. We 
have, therefore, the following points of similarity as regards 
customs between the Khasis on the one hand, certain Eastern 
Naga tribes, the Mikirs, and the ancient inhabitants of the 
Malay Peninsula on the other : 

1. Khasis. 

2. Certain Eastern Naga tribes. 

3. The ancient inabitants of the Malay 


4. The ancient inhabitants of Chota 

Nagpur (the Ho-Mundas ?). 

1. Khasis. 

2. Mikirs. 

3. Certain Eastern Naga tribes. 
( 1. Khasis. 

I 2. Mikirs. 

(a) Peculiarly shaped hoe, i.e. 
the hoe with far project-- 
ing shoulders 

(6) Sleeveless coat 

(c) Memorial atones ^ |; ^^ Nftga tribes 

\ 4. Ho-Mundas of Chota Nagpur. 


I wish to draw no definite conclusions from the above facts, 
but they are certainly worth considering with reference to 
Logan's theory as stated by Peal ; the theory being based on 
Logan's philological inquiries. Thanks to the labours in the 
linguistic field of Grierson, Logan, Kuhn, and last but not least 
Pater Schmidt of Vienna, we know that the languages of the 
Mon-Khmer group in Burma and the Malay Peninsula are 
intimately connected with Khasi. I say, intimately, advisedly, 
for not only are roots or words seen to be similar, but the order 
of the words in the sentence is found to be the same, indicating 
that both these people think in the same order when wishing to 
express themselves by speech. There are also syntactical 
agreements. We may take it as finally proved by Sir George 
Grierson and Professor Kuhn and Pater Schmidt that the Mon- 
Khmer, Palaung, Wa, and Khasi languages are closely connected. 1 
In the section of the Monograph which deals with language some 
striking similarities between the languages of these tribes will 
be pointed out. We have a detailed description by M. Aymonier 
of the physical characteristics of the people of French Indo- 
China. 2 If these are studied, many points in common between 
the Khrners, the Khasis, and the Palaungs will be found. 
Turning to dress we find in an interesting note of the Super- 
intendent of Ethnography in Burma (Mr. Lowis) a series of 
fashion plates of the costumes of the Palaung women. Some 
of the Palaung women, as depicted in Mr. Lowis' photographs, 
might be mistaken easily for Khasi females. It is noteworthy 
that the shape of both Palaung and Khasi neck ornaments is 
the same. A point of some interest is that the Palaung female 
dress is designed to imitate the hood, the scales, and the coils 
of a snake. The Mon-Khmer people inhabiting Burma and the 
Shan States believe in their descent from Nagas (dragons or 
serpents). Serpent worship was the ancient religion of the 
Mons and the Khmer remains in Cambodia contain carved 
snakes with immense hoods in prominent positions. There is 
still a survival of snake worship amongst the Khasis in the 

1 The question of linguistic affinity between the Khasi language and the 
language of the Austro- Asiatic Group will be considered under the section 
dealing with language. 

* P. 333 et aeqq. of vol. iii. of Aymonier's Le Cambodge. 


famous thlen superstition. The strong linguistic affinity be- 
tween the Khasis and the Palaungs and the wild Was of 
Burma points to an intimate connection between all three in 
the past. As knowledge of the habits of the wild Was improves 
it is quite possible that social customs of this tribe may be 
found to be held in common with the Khasis. With regard to 
social affinities it will be interesting to note the Palaung folk- 
tale of the origin of their Sawbwa, which is reproduced in Sir 
George Scott's Upper Burma Gazetteer. The Sawbwa, it is 
related, is descended from the Naga Princess Thusandi who 
lived in the Nat tank on the Mongok hills and who laid three 
eggs, from one of which was born the ancestor of the Palaung 
Sawbwa. Here we see how the Palaung regards the egg, and 
it is noteworthy that the Khasis lay great stress on its potency 
in divination for the purposes of religious sacrifices, and that at 
death it is placed on the stomach of the deceased and is after- 
wards broken at the funeral pyre. Amongst some of the tribes 
of the Malay Archipelago also the Gaji-Gwu or medicine-man 
" can see from the yolk of an egg, broken whilst sacramentally 
counting from one to seven, from what illness a man is suffer- 
ing and what has caused it." Here we have an almost exactly 
parallel case to the Khasi custom of egg-breaking. 

In the Palaung folk-tale above referred to the importance of 
the egg in the eyes of Palaung is demonstrated, and we know 
how the Khasi regards it. But the folk-tale is also important 
as suggesting that the ancient people of Pagan were originally 
serpent-worshippers, i.e. Ndgas, and it is interesting to note, as 
already mentioned, that the Eumai or Palaung women of the 
present day " wear a dress which is like the skin of the Naga 

Notwithstanding that Sir George Scott says the story has 
very Burman characteristics, the Palaung folk-tale is further 
interesting in that it speaks of the Sawbwa of the Palaungs 
being descended from a princess. This might be a suggestion 
of the matriarchate. 

It can well be imagined how important a matter it is also, 
in the light of Grierson's and Kuhn's and Schmidt's linguistic 
conclusions, to ascertain whether any of the Mon-Khm$r people 
in Anam and Cambodia and neighbouring countries possess 


social customs in common with the Khasis. In case it may be 
possible for French and Siamese ethnologists in Further India 
to follow up these inquiries at some subsequent date, it may be 
stated that information regarding social customs is required 
with reference to the people who speak the following languages 
in Anam and Cambodia and Cochin China which belong to the 
Mon-Khmer group Suk, Stieng, Bahnar, Anamese, Khamen- 
Boran, Xong, Samre, Khmu y and Lamet. 

Having noticed some similarities as regards birth customs, as 
described in Dr. Frazer's " Golden Bough," between the Khasis 
and certain inhabitants of the Dutch East Indies, I wrote to the 
Dutch authorities in Batavia requesting certain further in- 
formation. My application was treated with the greatest 
courtesy, and I am indebted to the kindness of the President, 
his secretary, and Mr. C. M. Pleyte, Lecturer of Indonesian 
Ethnology at the Gymnasium of William III., at Batavia, for 
some interesting as well as valuable information. With refer- 
ence to possible Malay influence in the countries inhabited by 
the people who speak the Mon-Khmer group of languages in 
Further India, it was thought desirable to ascertain whether 
any of the people inhabiting the Dutch East Indies possessed 
anything in common with the Khasis, who also belong to the 
Mon-Khmer group. There are, according to Mr. Pleyte, pure 
matriarchal customs to be found amongst the Minangkabe 
Malays inhabiting the Padang uplands and adjacent countries 
in Sumatra, in Agam, the fifty Kotas, and Tanah Datar, more 
or less mixed with patriarchal institutions; they are equally 
. followed by the tribes inhabiting parts of Korinchi and other 
places. The apparently strong survival of the matriarchate in 
parts of the island of Sumatra, as compared with this corre- 
sponding most characteristic feature of the Khasis, is a point for 
consideration. Mr. Pleyte goes on to state " regarding ancestor- 
worship, it may be said that this is found everywhere through- 
out the whole Archipelago ; even the tribes that have already 
adopted Islam venerate the spirits of their departed." The 
same might be said of some of the Khasis who have accepted 
Christianity, and much more of the Japanese. I would here 
refer the reader to the chapter on " Ancestor- worship." In the 
Southern Moluccas the placenta is mixed with ashes, placed in 



a pot, and hung on a tree ; a similar custom is observed 
in.Mandeling, on the west coast of Sumatra. This is a custom 
universally observed amongst the Khasis at births. Teknonomy 
to some extent prevails amongst some of these Malay tribes as 
with the Khasis. It will be seen from the above notes that 
there are some interesting points of affinity between the Khasis 
and some of the Malay tribes, and if we add that the 
Khasis are decidedly Malay in appearance, we cannot but 
wonder whether the Malays have any connection not only with 
the Mon-Khmer family, but also with the Khasis, with the 
Ho-Mundas, and with the Naga tribes mentioned by Mr. Peal in 
his interesting paper published in the Journal of the Asiatic 
Society of Bengal, already referred to. We will study the 
strong linguistic affinities between these peoples in the section 
which deals with language. 

M. Aymonier in Le Cambodge mentions the matriarchate as 
having been prevalent apparently amongst the primitive races 
of Cambodia, and notes that the ancient Chinese writers spoke 
of Queens in Fou-nan (Cambodia). If the Khmers were the 
ancient people of Cambodia, here we have an important land- 
mark in common between them and the Khasis. M. Aymonier 
goes on to speak of priestesses, and the Cambodian taboo, tarn 
or trenam, which Mr. Lowis, the Superintendent of Ethno- 
graphy in Burma, suggests may be akin to the Khasi sang. 


Dress may be divided into two divisions, ancient and modern. 
It will be convenient to take the former division first. The 
Khasi males of the interior wear the sleeveless coat or 
jymphong, which is a garment leaving the neck and arms bare, 
with a fringe at the bottom, and with a row of tassels across 
the chest ; it is fastened by frogs in front. This coat, however, 
may be said to be going out of fashion in the Khasi Hills, its 
place being taken by coats of European pattern in the more 
civilised centres and by all sorts of nondescript garments in the 
interior. The sleeveless coat, however, is still worn by many 
Syntengs in the interior and by the Bhois and Lynngams. The 
men in the Khasi Hills wear a cap with ear-flaps. The elderly 

From ,1 dntin'ng by Mrs. Truniger 


men, or other men when smartness is desired, wear a white 
turban, which is fairly large and is well tied on the head. 
Males in the Siemship of Nongstoin and in the North- Western 
corner of the district wear knitted worsted caps which are often 
of a red colour. These are sold at Nongstoin market at about 
8 or 9 annas each. They are brought to Nongstoin by traders 
from the Synteng country, and from Shillong, where they are 
knitted generally by Synteng women. A small cloth is worn 
round the waist and between the legs, one end of which hangs 
down in front like a small apron. The Syntengs wear a 
somewhat differently shaped cap, having no ear-flaps and with 
a high-peaked crown. Both Khasi and Synteng caps are 
generally of black cloth, having, as often as not, a thick coating 
of grease. The old-fashioned Khasi female's dress, which is that 
worn by the people of the cultivator class of the present day, is 
the following: Next to the skin is worn a garment called 
ka jympien, which is a piece of cloth wound round the body 
and fastened at the loins with a kind of cloth belt, and which 
hangs down from the waist to the knee or a little above 
it. Over this is worn a long piece of cloth, sometimes of muga 
silk, called ka jainsem. This is not worn like the Assamese 
mekhela or Bengali sari, for it hangs loosely from the shoulders 
down to a little above the ankles, and is not caught in at the 
waist; in fact, Khasi women have no waist. It is kept in 
position by knotting it over both the shoulders. Over the 
jainsem another garment called ka jain kup is worn. This is 
thrown over the shoulders like a cloak, the two ends being 
knotted in front ; it hangs loosely down the back and sides to 
the ankles. It is frequently of some gay colour, the fashion in 
Mawkhar and Cherrapunji being some pretty shade of French 
gray or maroon. Over the head and shoulders is worn a 
wrapper called ka tap-moh-khlieh. This, again, is frequently 
of some bright colour, but is often white. There is a fold in 
the jainsem which serves as a pocket for keeping odds and ends. 
Khasi women in cold weather wear gaiters which are often long 
stockings without feet, or, in the case of the poor, pieces of cloth 
wound round the legs like putties, or cloth gaiters. I have seen 
women at Nongstoin wearing gaiters of leaves. It was explained 
to me that these were worn to keep off the leeches. The 

c 2 


Khasi women might almost be said to be excessively 
clothed they wear the cloak in such a way as to hide entirely 
the graceful contours of the figure. The women are infinitely 
more decently clothed than Bengali coolie women, for instance ; 
but their dress cannot be described as becoming or graceful, 
although they show taste as regards the blending of colours in 
their different garments. 

The dress of the Synteng women is a little different. With 
them the jain Jchrywang takes the place of the Khasi jainsem 
and is worn by them in the following manner : One of the 
two ends is passed under one armpit and its two corners are 
knotted on the opposite shoulder. The other end is then wound 
round the body and fastened at the waist, from which it hangs 
half way down the calf. Over this they wear a sort of apron 
generally of muga silk. They have the cloak and the head- 
wrapper just the same as the Khasi women. The Synteng 
striped cloth may be observed in the picture of the Synteng 
girl in the plate. Khasi women on festive occasions, such as 
the annual Nongkrem puja, do not cover the head. The hair 
is bhen decked with jewellery or with flowers; but on all 
ordinary occasions Khasi women cover the head. War women, 
however, often have their heads uncovered. 

Modern Dress. The up-to-date Khasi male wears knicker- 
bockers made by a tailor, stockings, and boots ; also a tailor- 
made coat and waistcoat, a collar without a tie, and a cloth 
peaked cap. The young lady of fashion dons a chemise, also 
often a short coat of cloth or velvet, stockings, and smart shoes. 
Of course she wears the jainsem and cloak, but occasionally she 
may be seen without the latter when the weather is warm. It 
should be mentioned that the Khasi males are seldom seen 
without a haversack in which betel-nut, lime, and other odds 
and ends are kept ; and the female has her purse, which, how- 
ever, is not visible, being concealed within the folds of her 
lower garment. The haversack of the men is of cloth in the 
high plateau and in the Bhoi country, but it is of knitted fibre 
in the Wdr country. The Syntengs have a cloth bag, which 
they call ka muna. 

The WAr men dress very much the same as the neighbouring 
Sylheti Hindus. The WAr women, especially the Sheila 


From A drawing by Miss Eirenc Scott O'Connor 


women, wear very pretty yellow and red checked and striped 
cloths. The cloak is not so frequently worn as amongst Khasis, 
except in cold weather. The Lynngam dress is very similar to 
that of the neighbouring Garos. The males wear the sleeveless 
coat, or phong marong, of cotton striped red and blue, red and 
white, or blue and white, fastened in the same manner as the 
Khasi coat and with tassels. A small cloth, generally red or 
blue, is tied between the legs, one end of it being allowed to 
hang down, as with the Khasi, like an apron in front. A round 
cap is commonly worn ; but the elderly men and people of import- 
ance wear turbans. The females wear short cloths of cotton 
striped red and blue, the cloth reaching just above the knee, 
like the Garos ; married women wear no upper clothing, except 
in winter, when a red or blue cotton [cloth is thrown loosely 
across the shoulders. The women wear a profusion of blue 
bead necklaces and brass earrings like the Garos. Unmarried 
girls wear a cloth tightly tied round the figure, similar to that 
worn by the Kacharis. A bag of cloth for odds and ends is 
carried by the men slung across the shoulder. It should be 
mentioned that even in ancient times great people amongst the 
Khasis, like Siems, wore waist-cloths, and people of less 
consequence on great occasions, such as dances. The use of 
waist-cloths among the Khasis is on the increase, especially 
among those who live in Shillong and the neighbouring villages, 
and in Jowai and Cherrapunji. 


None of the Khasis tattoo ; the only people in the hills who 
tattoo are certain tribes of the Bhoi country which are really 
Mikir. These tattoo females on the forehead when they 
attain the age of puberty, a straight horizontal line being 
drawn from the parting of the hair down the forehead and 
nose. The line is one-eighth to one-quarter of an inch broad. 
The Lynngams occasionally tattoo a ring round the wrist of 


The Khasis, as a people, may be said to be fond of jewellery. 
The women are specially partial to gold and coral bead neck- 


laces. The beads are round and large, and are usually unorna- 
mented with filigree or other work. The coral is imported from 
Calcutta. The gold bead is not solid, but a hollow sphere filled 
with lac. These necklaces are worn by men as well as women, 
especially on gala occasions. Some of the necklaces are com- 
paratively valuable, e.g. that in the possession " of the Mylliem 
Siem family. The gold and coral beads are prepared locally 
by Khasi as well as by foreign goldsmiths. The latter 
derive considerable profits from the trade. The Assam Census 
Report of 1901 shows 133 goldsmiths in the Khasi and Jaintia 
Hills district, but does not distinguish between Khasis and 
foreigners. There are Khasi goldsmiths to be found in Mawk- 
har, Cherrapunji, Mawlai, and other villages. Sylheti gold- 
smiths are, however, more largely employed than Khasi in 
Mawsynram and certain other places on the south side of the 
hills. In Mr. Henniker's monograph on " gold and silver wares 
of Assam " it is stated that the goldsmiths of Karimganj in 
Sylhet make specially for Khasis certain articles of jewellery, 
such as men's and women's earrings, &c. An article of jewellery 
which is believed to be peculiar to the Khasis is the silver or 
gold crown. This crown is worn by the young women at 
dances, such as the annual Nongkrem dance. An illustration 
of one will be seen by referring to the plate. These crowns 
are circlets of silver or gold ornamented with filigree work. 
There is a peak or, strictly speaking, a spike at the back, called 
u'tiew-lasubon, which stands up some six inches above the 
crown. There are long ropes or tassels of silver hanging from 
the crown down the back. Earrings are worn both by men 
and women. The former affect a pattern peculiar to them- 
selves, viz. large gold pendants of a circular or oval shape. 
Women wear different patterns of earrings, according to 
locality. An ornament which I believe is also peculiar to 
the Khasis is the rupa-tylli, or silver collar. This is a broad 
flat silver collar which is allowed to hang down over the 
neck in front, and which is secured by a fastening behind. 
Silver chains are worn by men as well as by women. The 
men wear them round the waist like a belt, and the women 
hang them round their necks, the chains being allowed to 
depend as low as the waist. Bracelets are worn by women ; 


these are either of gold or of silver. The Lynngam 
males wear bead necklaces, the beads being sometimes of 
cornelian gathered from the beds of the local hill streams, 
and sometimes of glass obtained from the plains markets 
of Damra and Moiskhola. The cornelian necklaces are 
much prized by the Lynngams, and are called by them 
'pieng Uei, or gods' necklaces. Like the Garos, the Lynn- 
gams wear as many brass earrings as possible, the lobes of 
the ears of the females being frequently greatly distended by 
their weight. These earrings are made out of brass wire 
obtained from the plains markets. The Lynngams wear silver 
armlets above the elbow and also on the wrists. It is only a 
man who has given a great feast who can wear silver armlets 
above the elbows. These armlets are taken off as a sign of 
mourning, but never on ordinary occasions. The Lynngams do 
not wear Khasi jewellery, but jewellery of a pattern to be seen 
in the Garo Hills. A distinctive feature of the Lynngam 
women is the very large number of blue bead necklaces they 
wear. They put on such a large number as to give them 
almost the appearance of wearing horse collars. These beads 
are obtained from the plains markets, and are of glass. Further 
detailed information regarding this subject can be obtained 
from Mr. Henniker's monograph, which contains a good plate 
illustrating the different articles of jewellery. 


The weapons of the Khasis are swords, spears, bows and arrows, 
and a circular shield which was used formerly for purposes of 
defence. The swords are usually of wrought iron, occasionally of 
steel, and are forged in the local smithies. The Khasi sword is of 
considerable length, and possesses the peculiarity of not having a 
handle of different material from that which is used for the blade. 
In the Khasi sword the handle is never made of wood or bone, or 
of anything except iron or steel, the result being that the sword 
is most awkward to hold, and could never have been of much 
use as a weapon of offence. 

The same spear is used for thrusting and casting. The 
spear is not decorated with wool or hair like the spears of the 


Naga tribes, but it is nevertheless a serviceable weapon, and 
would be formidable in the hand of a resolute man at close 
quarters. The length of the spear is about 6 feet. The shaft 
is generally of bamboo, although sometimes of ordinary wood. 
The spear heads are forged in the local smithies. 

The Khasi weapon par excellence is the bow. Although no 
" Robin Hoods/' the Khasis are very fair archers, and they use 
the bow largely for hunting. The Khasi bow (ka ryntieti) is of 
bamboo, and is about 5 feet in height. The longest bow in use 
is said to be about the height of a man, the average height 
amongst the Khasis being about 5 feet 2 inches to 5 feet 4 inches. 
The bowstring is of split bamboo, the bamboos that are used 
being u spit, u shken, and u siej-lieh. 

The arrows (ki khnam) are of two kinds : (a) the barbed- 
headed (ki pliang\ and (6) the plain-headed (sop). Both are 
made out of bamboo. The first kind is used for hunting, 
the latter for archery matches only. Archery may be styled 
the Khasi national game. A description of Khasi archery 
will be found under the heading " Games." The feathers 
of the following birds are used for arrows : Vultures, 
geese, cranes, cormorants, and hornbills. Arrow-heads are 
made of iron or steel, and are forged locally. The distance 
a Khasi arrow will carry, shot from the ordinary bow by a 
man of medium strength, is 150 to 180 yards. The Khasi 
shield is circular in shape, of hide, and studded with brass 
or silver. In former days shields of rhinoceros hide are said 
to have been used, but nowadays buffalo skin is used. The 
shields would stop an arrow or turn aside a spear or sword 
thrust. The present-day shield is used merely for purposes of 

Before the advent of the British in the hills the Khasis are 
said to have been acquainted with the art of manufacturing 
gunpowder, which was prepared in the neighbourhood of 
Mawsanram, Kynchi, and Cherra. The gunpowder used to be 
manufactured of saltpetre, sulphur, and charcoal, the three 
ingredients being pounded together in a mortar. The Jaintia 
Rajas possessed cannon, two specimens of which are still to be 
seen at Jaintiapur. Their dimensions are as follows : 

Length, 9 feet; circumference in the middle, 3 feet 2 


inches ; diameter of the bore, 3 inches. There are some old 
cannon also at Lyngkyrdem and at Kyndiar in the Khyrim 
State, of the same description as above. These cannon were 
captured from the Jaintia Raja by the Siem of Nongkrem. No 
specimens of the cannon ball used are unfortunately available. 
There are also small mortars, specimens of which are to be seen 
in the house of the Siem of Mylliem. 

The weapons of the Syntengs are the same as those of the 
Khasis, although some of them are called by different names. 
At Nartiang I saw an old Khasi gun, which the people say was 
fired from the shoulder. I also saw a mortar of the same 
pattern as the one described amongst the Khasi weapons. 

The War and Lynngam weapons are also the same, but with 
different names. The only weapons used by the Bhois (Mikirs) 
are the spear and bill-hook for cutting down jungle. Butler, 
writing of the Mikirs in 1854, says, " Unlike any other hill 
tribes of whom we have any knowledge, the Mikirs seem 
devoid of anything approaching to a martial spirit. They are 
a quiet, industrious race of cultivators, and the only weapons 
used by them are the spear and da hand-bill for cutting down 
jungle. It is said, after an attempt to revolt from the 
Assamese rule, they were made to forswear the use of arms, 
which is the cause pf the present generation having no 
predilection for war." 



THE greater proportion of the population subsists by cultiva- 
tion./ Cultivation of rice may be divided under two headings, 
high land or dry cultivation and low land or wet cultivation. 
The total number of persons who subsist by agriculture 
generally in the hills, is given in the last Census Report as 
154,907, but the term agriculture includes the cultivation of 
the potato, the orange, betel-nut, and pdn. A full description 
of the different forms of agriculture will be given under the 
heading " Agriculture." /A considerable number of Khasis earn 
their livelihood as porters, carrying potatoes to the markets on 
the Sylhet side of the district, from whence the crop is conveyed 
by means of country boats to the different places of call of 
river-steamers in the Surma Valley, the steamers carrying the 
potatoes to Calcutta. Potatoes are also largely carried to 
Shillong by porters, where the tuber is readily bought by 
Marwari merchants, who load it in carts to be conveyed by 
road to Gauhati, from which station it is again shipped to 
Calcutta and Upper Assam. Many persons are also employed in 
carrying rice up the hill from Theria to Cherrapunji, Shillong, 
and on to other places. Salt is also carried by porters by 
this route. Many Khasis, both male and female, live by daily 
labour in this way, earning as much as eight annas, and 
six annas a day, respectively. The Census Report of 
1901 shows some 14,000 " general labourers " in the district, 
the greater number of whom are porters and coolies, both male 
and female, employed on road work and on building. In 
Shillong the Government Offices and the printing press give 



employment to a certain number of Khasis. There is also a fair 
demand for Khasi domestic servants, both among the Europeans 
and the Bengali and Assamese clerks who are employed at the 
headquarters of the Administration. The manufacture of 
country spirit gives employment to a considerable number of 
persons, most of whom are females. At a census of the country 
stills in the district, undertaken by the district officials, the 
number of stills was found to be 1,530. There must be at least 
one person employed at each still, so that the number of 
distillers would be probably not less than 2,000, possibly more. 
The spirit is distilled both for home consumption and for 
purposes of sale, in some villages almost entirely for sale. In 
the Jaintia Hills stock-breeding and dealing in cattle provided 
occupation for 1,295 people, according to the census. The cattle 
are reared in the Jaintia Hills and are driven down to the 
plains when they reach the age of maturity, where they find a 
ready market amongst the Sylhetis. Cattle are also driven 
into Shillong for sale from the Jaintia Hills. Another place 
for rearing cattle is the Siemship of Nongkhlaw, where there is 
good pasturage in the neighbourhood of Mairang. These cattle 
are either sold in Shillong or find their way to the Kamrup 
district by the old Nongkhlaw road. Cattle-breeding is an 
industry which is capable of expansion in these hills. There 
are a few carpenters to be found in Shillong and its neighbour- 
hood. The Khasis are said by Col. Waddell to be unacquainted 
with the art of weaving; but the fact that a considerable 
weaving industry exists among the Khyrwang villages of the 
Syntengs, and at Mynso and Suhtnga, has been overlooked by 
him. The Khyrwangs weave a special pattern of cotton and 
silk cloth, striped red and white. In Mynso and Suhtnga 
similar cloths are woven, also the sleeveless coat. In former 
days this industry is said to have been considerable, but it has 
been displaced to a large extent of late years by Manchester 
piece goods. The number of weavers returned at the census of 
1901 in the district was 533. The Khasis and Mikirs of the 
low country, or Bhois as they are called, weave cotton cloths 
which they dye with the leaves of a plant called u noli. This is 
perhaps the wild indigo, or ram, of the Shan settlers in the 
Assam Valley. The weavers are almost always females. An 


important means of subsistence is road and building work ; a 
considerable number of coolies, both male and female, are 
employed under Government, practically throughout the year, in 
this manner, the males earning on an average 8 annas and the 
females 6 annas a day. Col. Bivar writes that in 1875 the 
wages for ordinary male labourers were 4 to 8 annas a day, and 
for females 2 to 4 annas, so that the wages rates have almost 
doubled in the last thirty years. Contractors, however, often 
manage to obtain daily labour at lower rates than those paid by 
Government. Stonemasons and skilled labourers are able to 
obtain higher rates. It is easier to get coolies in the Khasi 
than in the Jaintia Hills, where a large proportion of the popu- 
lation is employed in cultivation. The Khasis are excellent 
labourers, and cheerful and willing, but they at once resent bad 
treatment, and are then intractable and hard to manage. Khasis 
are averse from working in the plains in the hot-weather 


I am indebted to Mr. Rita for the following remarks on 
apiculture in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. 

There are two kinds of indigenous bees in the Khasi Hills, 
one domesticated, called u ngap (Apis Indica\ and the other 
it, lywai, which is never domesticated, and is very pugnacious ; 
its hives are difficult of access, being always located in very 
high cliffs. A few hives of a third class of bee are now-a-days to 
be found in and around the station of Shillong, i.e. the Italian. 
This bee was imported into the hills by Messrs. Dobbie and 
Kita, and the species became propagated in the following 
manner. The bees had been just established in a hive, where 
they had constructed a brood comb, when the hive was robbed 
by some Khasis for the sake of the larvce it contained, which 
they wished to consume as food ; but the queen bee escaped and 
established other colonies, one of which was afterwards captured 
by Mr. Rita, the others establishing themselves at places in the 
neighbourhood. The hive used by the Khasis is of a very 
primitive description. It is usually a hollow piece of wood, 
about 2 to 3 ft. in length and 10 or 12 in. in diameter. 
A small door is placed at each end of the log, one for the bees 



to go in and out, and the other for the removal of the honey 
when wanted. The honey-combs are broken and the honey is 
extracted by squeezing the comb with the hand. Wax is 
obtained by placing the comb in boiling water and allowing it 
to cool, when the wax floats to the surface. The Khasis do not 
systematically tend their bees, as they do not understand 
how to prevent swarming, and as the Khasi bee is a prolific 
swarmer, hives become weak very soon and a new hive has to be 
started from a captured natural swarm. The villages in which 
bees are regularly kept to any large extent in the Khasi and 
Jaintia Hills are Thied-dieng, Mawphoo, Nongwar, Mawlong, 
Pynter, Tyrna, and Kongthong, but most of the War villagers 
rear bees and sell the honey at the neighbouring markets. The 
collection of the honey of the wild bee, or u lywai, is a hazardous 
occupation, the services of some six or seven persons being 
required, as the combs of this bee are generally built in the 
crevices of precipitous rocks, and sometimes weigh more 
than half a maund each. When such hives are discovered 
the bees are driven out by the smoke of a smouldering fire lit 
at the foot of the rock below the hive. Two or three men get 
to the top of the precipice, leaving two or three of their 
companions at the base. One of the men on the top of the 
rock is then lowered down in a sling tied to a strong rope, which 
is made fast by his companions above to a tree or boulder. The 
man in the sling is supplied with material to light a torch which 
gives out a thick smoke, with the aid of which the bees 
are expelled. The man then cuts out the comb, which he places 
in a leather bucket or bag, which, when filled, he lowers down 
to the persons in waiting at the foot of the rock. The wild 
honey may be distinguished from that of the domestic bee by 
being of a reddish colour. Honey from the last-mentioned 
bee is gathered twice or thrice in the year, once in the autumn 
and once or twice in the spring ; that gathered in early spring is 
not so matured as that collected in autumn. The flora of the 
Khasi Hills being so numerous, there is no necessity for providing 
bees with artificial food. The bees are generally able to obtain 
their sustenance from clover, anemones, "golden rod," bush 
honeysuckle, and numerous shrubs such as andromeda, daphne, 
&c., which abound about Shillong. There seem to be facilities 


for apiculture on a large scale in these hills, and certainly the 
honey which is brought round by the Khasis for sale in 
Shillong is excellent, the flavour being quite as good as that 
of English honey. Under " Miscellaneous Customs connected 
with Death " will be found a reference to the statement that the 
dead bodies of Siems used to be embalmed in honey. The 
existence of the custom is generally denied by Khasis, but 
its former prevalence is probable, as several trustworthy 
authors have quoted it. 


The houses of the people are cleaner than might be supposed 
after taking into consideration the dirtiness of the clothes and 
persons of those who inhabit them. They are as a rule sub- 
stantial thatched cottages with plank or stone walls, and raised 
on a plinth some 2 to 3 ft. from the ground. The only 
window is a small opening on one side of the house, which 
admits but a dim light into the smoke-begrimed interior. The 
beams are so low that it is impossible for a person of ordinary 
stature to stand erect within. The fire is always burning on an 
earthen or stone hearth in the centre. There is no chimney, 
the smoke finding its exit as best it can. The firewood is 
placed to dry on a swinging frame above the hearth. In the 
porch are stacked fuel and odds and ends. The pigs and calves 
are generally kept in little houses just outside the main 
building. The Khasi house is oval-shaped, and is divided 
into three rooms, a porch, a centre-room, and a retiring- 
room. / 

In 61den days the Khasis considered nails sang, or taboo, and 
only used a certain kind of timber for the fender which sur- 
rounds the hearth ; but they are not so particular now-a-days. 
In Mawkhar, Cherrapunji, and other large villages, the walls of 
houses are generally of stone. In Cherrapunji the houses are 
frequently large, but the largest house I have seen in the hills 
is that of the Doloi of Suhtnga in the Jaintia Hills, which 
measures 74 ft. in length. The house of the Siem Priestess at 
Smit in the Khasi Hills is another large one, being 61 ft. long 
by 30 ft. broad, fin front of the Khasi house is a little space 
fenced in on two^ides, but open towards the village street. The 



< $ 

u HOUSES 31 

Syntengs plaster the space in front of the house with red earth 
and cow-dung, this custom being probably a remnant of Hindu 
influences. (The Khasis have some peculiar customs when they 
build a new house. When the house is completed they perform 
a ceremony, kynjoh-hka-skain, when they tie three pieces of 
dried fish to the ridge pole of the house and then jump 
up and try to pull them down again. Or they kill a 
pig, cut a piece of the flesh with the skin attached, and 
fix it to the ridge pole, and then endeavour to dislodge 
it^ The Syntengs at Nartiang worship U Biskuram (Bis- 
wakarma) and Ka Siem Synshar when a house is completed, 
two fowls being sacrificed, one to the former, the other to the 
latter. The feathers of the fowls are affixed to the centre post 
of the house, which must be of u dieng sning, a variety of the 
Khasi oak. The worship of a Hindu god (Biswakarma), the 
architect of the Hindu gods, alongside the Khasi deity Ka Siem 
Synshar, is interesting, and may be explained by the fact that 
Nartiang was at one time the summer capital of the kings of 
Jaintia, who were Hindus latterly and disseminated Hindu 
customs largely amongst the Syntengs. Mr. Rita says that 
amongst the Syntengs, a house, the walls of which have been 
plastered with mud, is a sign that the householder has an 
enemy. The plastering no doubt is executed as a preventive 
of fire, arson in these hills being a common form of 

Among the Khasis, when a daughter leaves her mother's 
house and builds a house in the mother's compound, it is con- 
sidered sang, or taboo, for the daughter's house to be built on the 
right-hand side of the mother's house, it should be built either 
on the left hand or at the back of the mother's house. 

In Nongstoin it is customary to worship a deity called 
u'lei lap (Khasi, u phari), by nailing up branches of the Khasi 
oak, interspersed with jaw-bones of cattle and the feathers of 
fowls, to the principal post, which must be of u dieng sning. 
The Siem priestess of the Nongkrem State at Smit and the 
ladies of the Siem family perform a ceremonial dance 
before a large post of oak in the midst of the Siem priestesses' 
house on the occasion of the annual goat-killing ceremony. 
This oak post is furnished according to custom by the lyngskor 


or official spokesman of the Siem's Durbar. Another post of 
oak in this house is furnished by the people of the State. 

The houses of the well-to-do Khasis of the present day in 
Mawkhar and Cherrapunji are built after the modern style 
with iron roofs, chimneys, glass windows and doors. In Jowai 
the well-to-do traders have excellent houses of* the European 
pattern, which are as comfortable as many of the European 
subordinates' quarters in Shillong. Some up-to-date families 
in Shillong and at Cherra allow themselves muslin curtains 
and European furniture. 

The houses of the Pnar-Wars are peculiar. The roof, which 
is thatched with the leaves of a palm called u tynriew, is hog- 
backed and the eaves come down almost to the ground. There 
are three rooms in the War as in the Khasi house, although 
called by different names in the War dialect. The hearth is 
in the centre room. The houses are built flush with the ground 
and are made of bamboos. In the War villages of Nongjri and 
Umniuh there are small houses erected in the compounds of 
the ordinary dwelling-houses called ieng ksuid (spirit houses). 
In these houses offerings to the spirits of departed family ances- 
tors are placed at intervals, this practice being very similar to 
the more ancient form of Shintoism. In some War villages 
there are also separate bachelors' quarters. This custom is 
in accordance with that of the Naga tribes. There is no such 
custom amongst the Khasi Uplanders. The War houses are 
similar to those of the Pnar- Wdrs, except that a portion of the 
house is generally built on a platform, the main house resting 
on the hill-side and the portion on the platform projecting 
therefrom, the object being to obtain more space, the area for 
houses in the village sites being often limited owing to the 
steepness of the hill-sides. 

The Bhoi and Lynngam houses are practically similar, and 
may be described together. They are generally built on 
fairly high platforms of bamboo, are frequently 30 to 40 ft. 
in length, and are divided into various compartments in order 
to suit the needs of the family. The hearth, which is of earth, 
is in the centre room. There is a platform at the back of the 
Lynngam house, and in front of the Bhoi house, used for drying 
paddy, spreading chillies, &c., and for sitting on when the day's 


work is done. In order to ascend to a Bhoi house, you have 
to climb up a notched pole. The Bhois sacrifice a he-goat and 
a fowl to R&k-anglong (Khasi, Bamiew iing\ the household 
god, when they build a new house. 


\Unlike the Nagas and Kukis, the Khasis do not build their 

villages on the extreme summits of hills, but a little below the 

tops, generally in small depressions, in order to obtain some 

protection from the strong winds and storms which prevail in 

these hills at certain times of the yearX According to the late 

U Jeebon Roy, it is sang, or taboo, to the Khasis to build a 

house on the last eminence of a range of hills, this custom 

having perhaps arisen owing to the necessity of locating villages 

with reference to their defence against an enemy, (khasis 

build their houses fairly close together, but not as close as 

houses in the Bhoi and Lynngam villages. Khasis seldom 

change the sites of their villages, to which they are very much 

attached, where, as a rule, the family tombs are standing and 

the mdwbynna or memorial stones?) In many villages stone 

cromlechs and memorial stones are to be seen which from their 

appearance show that the villages have been there for many 

generations. During the Jaintia rebellion the village of Jowai 

was almost entirely destroyed, but as soon as the rebellion was 

over the people returned to the old site and rebuilt their 

village. Similarly, after the earthquake, the ancient village 

sites were not abandoned in many cases, but the people rebuilt 

their houses in their former positions, although in Shillong and 

Cherrapunji they rebuilt the walls of the houses of wooden 

materials instead of stone. There is no such thing as 

a specially reserved area in the village for the Siem and 

the nobility, all the people, rich or poor, living together in 

one village, their houses being scattered about indiscriminately. 

To the democratic Khasi the idea^of the Siem living apart from 

his people would be repugnant, (in the vicinity of the Khasi 

village, often just below the brow of the hill to the leeward side, 

are to be seen dark woods of oak and other trees. These are 

the sacred groves?) Here the villagers worship U ryngkew U 


basa, the tutelary deity of the village. These groves are taboo, 
and it is an offence to cut trees therein for any purpose other 
than for performing funeral obsequies. The groves are gener- 
ally not more than a few hundred yards away from the villages. 
The villages of the Syntengs are similar in character to those of 
the Khasis. The Wdr villages nestle on the hill-sides of the 
southern border, and are to be seen peeping out from the green 
foliage with which the southern slopes are clad. In the vicinity 
of, and actually up to the houses, in the W&r villages, are to be 
observed large groves of areca-nut, often twined with the pan 
creeper, and of plantain trees, which much enhance the beauty 
of the scene. Looking at a Wdr village from a distance, a 
darker shade of green is seen ; this denotes the limits of the 
extensive groves where the justly celebrated Khasi orange is 
grown, which is the source of so much profit to these people. 
The houses in the W&r villages are generally closer together 
than those of the Khasis, probably owing to space being limited, 
and to the villages being located on the slopes of hills. Gener- 
ally up the narrow village street, and from house to house, there 
are rough steep stone steps, the upper portion of a village being 
frequently situated at as high an elevation as 200 to 300 ft. 
above the lower. In a convenient spot in a War village a clear 
space is to be seen neatly swept and kept free from weeds, and 
surrounded with a stone wall, where the village tribunals sit, 
and the elders meet in solemn conclave. Dances also are held 
here on festive occasions. At Nongjri village there is a fine 
rubber tree under whose hollow trunk there are certain sacred 
stones where the priest performs the village ceremonies. 

The Bhoi and Lynngam villages are built in small clearings 
in the forest, the houses are close together and are built often 
in parallel lines, a fairly broad space being reserved between 
the lines of houses to serve as a street. One misses the pretty 
gardens of the Wdr villages, for Bhois and Lynngams attempt 
nothing of the sort, probably because, unlike the Khasi, a Bhoi 
or Lynngam village never remains more than two or three years 
in one spot ; generally the villages of these people are in the 
vicinity of the forest clearings, sometimes actually in the midst 
of them, more especially when the latter are situated in places 
where jungle is dense, and there is fear of attacks from wild 


animals. In the Lynngam village is to be seen a high bamboo 
platform some 20 to 30 ft. from the ground, built in the midst 
of the village, where the elders sit and gossip in the evening. 

All the villages, Khasi, Wdr, Lynngam and Bhoi, swarm with 
pigs, which run about the villages unchecked. The pigs feed 
on all kinds of filth, and in addition are fed upon the wort 
and spent wash of the brewings of country spirit, or rice beer, 
the latter being carefully collected and poured into wooden 
troughs. The pigs are of the usual black description seen in 
India. They thrive greatly in the Khasi villages, and frequently 
attain extreme obesity. 

In the Khasi villages of the high plateaux are often 
nowadays potato gardens, the latter being carefully protected 
from the inroads of pigs, calves, and goats by dry dikes 
surmounted by hedges. 

I noticed an interesting custom at a Bhoi village in Nong- 
poh of barricading the path leading to the village from the 
forest with bamboo palisading and bamboo chevaux de frise to 
keep out the demon of cholera. In the middle of the barricade 
there was a wooden door over which was nailed the skull of a 
monkey which had been sacrificed to this demon, which is, as 
amongst the Syntengs, called khlam. 


As in the case of houses, so with reference to furniture, the 
influence of civilisation shows many changes. The Khasi of 
the present day who lives in Mawkhar l has a comfortable house 
regularly divided up into rooms in the European style with 
some European articles of furniture even, but owing probably 
to the influence of the women, he still possesses several of the 
articles of furniture which are to be met with in the houses of 
those who still observe the old style of living. Let us take 
the furniture of the kitchen to begin with. Above the hearth 
is slung by ropes of cane a swinging wooden framework 
blackened with the smoke of years, upon which are spread the 
faggots of resinous fir-wood used for kindling the fire. Above 
this again is a wooden framework fixed on to the beams of the 

1 Mawkhar is a suburb of Shillong, the headquarters station. 


house, upon which all sorts of odds and ends are kept. Around 
the fire are to be seen small wooden stools, upon which the 
members of the household sit. Up-to-date Khasis have cane 
chairs, but the women of the family, true to the conservative 
instincts of the sex, prefer the humble stool to sit upon. Well- 
to-do Khasis nowadays have, in addition to the ordinary 
cooking vessels made of iron and earthenware, a number of 
brass utensils. The writer has seen in a Khasi house in Maw- 
khar brass drinking vessels of the pattern used in Orissa, of the 
description used in Manipur, and of the kind which is in vogue 
in Sylhet. The ordinary cultivator, however, uses a waterpot 
made from a gourd hollowed out for keeping water and liquor, 
and drinks from a bamboo cylinder. Plates, or more properly 
speaking dishes, are of several kinds in the houses of the rich, 
the two larger ones being styled ka pliang kynthei (female) and 
ka pliang shynrang (male). Needless to say, in Khasi land the 
first mentioned is a larger utensil than the latter. The 
ordinary waterpots, u khiew phiang kynthei and u khiew phiang 
shynrang, are made of brass, the former being a size larger and 
having a wider mouth than the latter. The pot for cooking 
vegetables is made of iron. Another utensil is made of 
earthenware ; this is the ordinary cooking pot used in the 
houses of the poor. Brass spoons of different sizes are used for 
stirring the contents of the different cooking utensils, also a 
wooden spoon. 

In the sleeping-rooms of the well-to-do there are wooden 
beds with mattresses and sheets and pillows, clothes being 
hung upon clothes-racks, which in one house visited were of 
the same pattern as the English " towel horse." The ordinary 
cultivator and his wife sleep on mats made of plaited bamboo, 
which are spread on the bare boards of the house. There are 
various kinds of mats to be met with in the Khasi houses 
made of plaited cane, of a kind of reed, and of plaited bamboo. 
The best kind of mat is prepared from cane. In all Khasi 
houses are to be seen ki knup, or rain shields, of different 
sizes and sometimes of somewhat different shapes. The large 
shield of Cherrapunji is used as a protection from rain. 
Those of Maharam and Mawiang are each of a peculiar pattern. 
Smaller shields are used as protections from the sun or merely 


for show, and there are specially small sizes for children. Then 
there are the different kinds of basket (ki khoh) which are 
carried on the back, slung across the forehead by a cane head- 
strap. These, again, are of different sizes. They are, however, 
always of the same conical shape, being round and broad-mouthed 
at the top and gradually tapering to a point at the bottom. A 
bamboo cover is used to protect the contents of the basket from 
rain. There is a special kind of basket made of cane or bamboo 
with a cover, which is used for carrying articles on a journey. 
These baskets, again, are of different sizes, the largest and best 
that the writer has seen being manufactured at Rambrai, in 
the south-western portion of the hills. Paddy is husked in a 
wooden mortar by means of a heavy wooden pestle. These are 
to be seen all over the hills. The work of husking paddy is 
performed by the women. A bamboo sieve is sometimes used 
for sifting the husked rice, a winnowing fan being applied to 
separate the husk. The cleaned rice is exposed to the sun in a 
bamboo tray. Paddy is stored in a separate store-house in 
large circular bamboo receptacles. These hold sometimes as 
much as 30 maunds l of grain. Large baskets are also used 
for storing paddy. In every Khasi house is to be found the 
net bag which is made out of pineapple fibre, or of u stein, 
the Assamese riha (Boehmeria nivea). These bags are of two 
sizes, the larger one for keeping cowries, the cowrie in former 
days having been used instead of current coin in these hills, 
the smaller for the ever necessary betel-nut. Pdn leaves are 
kept in a bamboo tube, and tobacco leaves in a smaller one. 
Lime, for eating with betel-nut, is kept in a metal box, some- 
times of silver, which is made in two separate parts held 
together by a chain. The box is called ka shanam, and is 
used all over the hills. This box is also used for divination 
purposes, one end of it being held in the hand, and the other, 
by means of the chain, being allowed to swing like a pendulum. 
An explanation of this method of divination will be found in 
the paragraph dealing with divination. 

There is also a pair of squeezers used by the old and toothless 
for breaking up betel-nut. In the houses of the well-to-do is 
to be seen the ordinary hubble-bubble of India. Outside the 
1 The maund is 82 Ibs. 


houses of cultivators are wooden troughs hollowed out of the 
trunks of trees, which are used either as drinking troughs for 
cattle or for feeding pigs. A special set of utensils is used for 
manufacturing liquor. The Synteng and Wdr articles of 
furniture and utensils are the same as those of the Khasis, 
with different names, a remark which applies also to those of 
the Bhois and Lynngams. Both the latter, however, used 
leaves as plates, the Bhoi using the wild plantain and the 
Lynngam a large leaf called KcC la mariong. The leaves are 
thrown away after eating, fresh leaves being gathered for each 
meal. The Lynngams use a quilt (ka syllar) made out of the 
bark of a tree of the same name as a bed covering. This tree 
is perhaps the same as the Garo simpak. In the Bhoi and 
Lynngam houses the swinging shelf for keeping firewood is not 
to be seen, nor is the latter to be found amongst the submontane 
Bodo tribes in Assam. 


The Khasis have not many musical instruments, and those 
that they possess, with one or two exceptions, are of very much 
the same description as those of the Assamese. There are 
several kinds of drums, viz. ka ndkra, which is a large kettle- 
drum made of wood having the head covered with deerskin ; 
ka ksing, which is a cylindrically-shaped drum rather smaller 
than the Assamese dhol (ka ksing kynthei takes its name from 
the fact that this drum is beaten when women, kynthei, 
dance), kapadiah, a small drum with a handle made of wood; 
katasa, a small circular drum. Khasi drums are nearly always 
made of wood, not of metal, like the drums to be seen in the 
monasteries of Upper Assam, or of earthenware, as in Lower 

Ka duitara is a guitar with muga silk strings, which is 
played with a little wooden key held in the hand. Ka maryngod 
is an instrument much the same as the last, but is played with 
a bow like a violin. Ka marynthing is a kind of guitar with 
one string, played with the finger. 

Ka tdngmuri is a wooden pipe, which is played like a 
flageolet. Ka kynshdw, or shdkwiaw, are cymbals made of bell 


metal ; ka shdrdti, or ka shingwiang, is a kind of flute made of 
bamboo. This instrument is played at cremation ceremonies, 
and when the bones and ashes of a clan are collected and 
placed in the family tomb, or mdwbah. This flu be is not 
played on ordinary occasions. In the folk-lore portion of the 
Monograph will be found a tale regarding it. There are other 
kinds of flutes which are played on ordinary occasions. The 
Wars of the twenty-five villages in the Khyrim State make a 
sort of harp out of reed, which is called ka 'sing ding phong. 
The Khasis also play a Jews' harp (ka mieng\ which is made of 


The Khasis are industrious cultivators, although they are 
behindhand in some of their methods of cultivation (e.g. their 
failure to adopt the use of the plough in the greater portion of 
the district) ; they are thoroughly aware of the uses of manures. 
Their system of turning the sods, allowing them to dry, then 
burning them, and raking the ashes over the soil, is much in 
advance of any system of natural manuring to be seen elsewhere 
in the Province. The Khasis used the following agricultural 
implements: A large hoe (mokhiw heh\ an axe for felling 
trees (u sdie\ a large da for felling trees (ka wait lynngam), 
two kinds of bill-hooks (ka wait prat and ka wdit khmut\ 
a sickle (ka rdshi), a plough in parts of the Jaintia Hills (ka 
lyngkor), also a harrow (ka iuh moi). In dealing with agricul- 
ture, the lands of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills may be divided 
into the following classes : (a) Forest land, (&) wet paddy land 
called hdli or pynthor, (c) high grass land or ka ri lum or ka ri 
phlang, (d) homestead land (ka 'dew kyptr). Forest lands are 
cleared by the process known as fliuming, the trees being felled 
early in the winter and allowed to lie till January or February, 
when fire is applied, logs of wood being placed at intervals of a 
few feet to prevent as far as possible the ashes being blown 
away by the wind. The lands are not hoed, nor treated any 
further, paddy and millet being sown broadcast, and the seeds 
of root crops, as well as of maize and Job's tears, being dibbled 
into the ground by means of small hoes. No manure, beyond 


the wood ashes above mentioned, is used on this class of land ; 
there is no irrigation and no other system of watering is resorted 
to. The seeds are sown generally when the first rain falls. 
This style of cultivation, ovjhum, is largely resorted to by the 
people inhabiting the eastern and southern portions of the 
Jaintia Hills, e.g. the Bhois and Lalungs, the- Lynngams and 
Garos of the western tracts of the district. Wet paddy land 
(hali or pynthor) is, as the name implies, the land where the kind 
of paddy which requires a great deal of water is grown. The 
bottoms of valleys are divided up into little compartments by 
means of fairly high banks corresponding to the Assamese dlis, 
and the water is let in at will into these compartments by 
means of skilfully contrived irrigation channels, sometimes a 
mile or more in length. The soil is made into a thick paste in 
the Jaintia Hills by means of the plough, and in the Khasi 
Hills through the agency of the hoe. Droves of cattle also 
are driven repeatedly over the paddy-fields until the mud has 
acquired the right consistency. The seed is then sown broad- 
cast in the wet mud. It is not sown first in a seedling bed and 
then transplanted, as in Assam and Bengal. When the plants 
have grown to a height of about four inches, water is let in 
again ; then comes the weeding, which has to be done several 
times. When the crop is ripe, the ears are cut with a sickle 
(ka rashi) generally, so as to leave almost the entire stalk, and 
are left in different parts of the field. A peculiarity about the 
Lynngam and the Khasis and Mikirs of the low hills, or Bhois 
as they are called, is that they reckon it sang, or taboo, to use 
the sickle. They reap their grain by pulling the ear through 
the hand. The sheaves, after they are dry, are collected and 
thrashed out on the spot, either by beating them against a 
stone (shoh kba) t or by men and women treading them out (iuh 
kba). Cattle are not used for treading out the grain. The 
grain is then collected and placed in large bamboo receptacles 
(ki thiar). The paddy fields are not manured. 'The Khasis 
when cultivating high lands, select a clayey soil if they can. 
In the early part of the winter the sods are turned over with 
the hoe, and they are exposed to the action of the atmosphere 
for a period of about two months. When the sods are dry, 
they are placed in piles, which are generally in rows in the 


fields, and by means of ignited bunches of dry grass within the 
piles a slow fire is kept up, the piles of sods being gradually 
reduced to ashes. This is the " paring and burning process " 
used in parts of England. The ashes so obtained are then care- 
fully raked over the field. Sometimes other manure is also 
applied, but not when paddy is cultivated. The soil is now fit 
to receive the seed, either high-land paddy, millet, Job's tears, 
or other crops, as the case may be. The homestead lands are 
plentifully manured, and consequently, with attention, produce 
good crops. They are cultivated with the hoe. 

The cultivation of oranges in the southern portion of the 
district ranks equally in importance with that of the potato in 
the northern. The orange, which is known in Calcutta as the 
Chhatak or Sylhet orange, comes from the warm southern 
slopes of the hills in this district, where it is cultivated on an 
extensive scale. Although oranges do best when there is 
considerable heat, they have been known to do well as high 
as 3,000 ft. ; but the usual limit of elevation for the growth 
of oranges in this district is probably about 1,000 to 1.500 ft. 
The orange of the Khasi Hills has always been famous for its 
excellence, and Sir George Birdwood, in his introduction to the 
" First Letter Book of the East India Company," page 36, refers 
to the orange and lemon of Garhwdl, Sikkim, and Khasia as 
having been carried by Arab traders into Syria, " whence the 
Crusaders helped to gradually propagate them throughout 
Southern Europe." Therefore whereas the potato was im- 
ported, the orange would appear to be indigenous in these 

Nurseries. The seeds are collected and dried by being 
exposed to the sun. In the spring nurseries are prepared, the 
ground being thoroughly hoed and the soil pulverised as far 
as possible. The nursery is walled with stones. The seeds 
are then sown, a thin top layer of earth being applied. The 
nurseries are regularly watered, and are covered up with 
layers of leaves to ensure, as far as possible, the retention 
of the necessary moisture. When the plants are 3 or 4 in. 
high, they are transplanted to another and larger nursery, the 
soil of which has been previously well prepared for the 
reception of the young plants. 


An orangery is prepared in the following manner : 
The shrubs, weeds and small trees are cut down, leaving 
only the big trees for the purpose of shade. The plants from 
the nurseries are planted from 6 ft. to 9 ft. apart. When 
they have become young trees, many of the branches of the 
sheltering trees mentioned above are lopped off, so as to admit 
the necessary amount of sunlight to the young orange trees. 
As the orange trees increase in size, the sheltering trees are 
gradually felled. The orchard requires clearing of jungle once 
in spring and once in autumn. The Khasis do not manure their 
orange trees, nor do they dig about and expose the roots. The 
price of orange plants is from 75 to 100 plants per rupee for 
plants from 1 to 2 ft. in height, and from fifty to seventy-five 
plants per rupee for plants from 2 to 5 ft. in height. Orange 
trees bear fruit when from five to eight years old in ordinary 
soils. In very fertile soils they sometimes bear after four 
years. A full-grown tree yields annually as many as 1,000 
oranges, but a larger number is not unknown. The larger 
portion of the produce is exported from the district to the 
plains, and to fruit markets at the foot of the hills such 
as Theria, Mawdon, and Phali-Bazar, on the Sheila river, 
whence it finds its way to the Calcutta and Eastern Bengal 

Potatoes are raised on all classes of land, except kali, or wet 
paddy land. When the land has been properly levelled and 
hoed, drains are dug about the field. A cultivator (generally a 
female), with a basket of seed potatoes on her back and with 
a small hoe in her right hand, digs holes and with the 
left hand drops two seed potatoes into each hole. The holes 
are about 6 in. in diameter, 6 in. deep, and from 6 to 9 in. 
apart from one another. Another woman, with a load of 
manure in a basket on her back, throws a little manure over 
the seed in the hole, and then covers both up with earth. 
After the plants have attained the height of about 6 in., they 
are earthed up. When the leaves turn yellow, it is a sign that 
the potatoes are ripe. The different kinds of sweet potatoes 
grown and the yam and another kind of esculent root 
u sohpklang (JFlemingia vestita JBenth.) will be noticed under 
the head of "Crops." 

ii CROPS 43 

The Khasis possess very few agricultural sayings and 
proverbs, but the following may be quoted as examples : 

(1) Wat jit, ai thung j ingthung ne bet symbai ha uba sniew 

Do not allow plants to be planted or seeds to be sown 
by one who has a bad hand. 

As elsewhere, there is a belief amongst the Khasis in 
the " unlucky hand." 

(2) Thung dieng ne bet symbai haba ngen bnai, ym haba 
shai u bnai. 

Plant trees or sow seeds not when the moon is waxing, 
but when it is on the wane. 

(3) Wei la saw bha ka bneng sepngi jan miet phin sa ioh 
jingrang lashai. 

A red sky in the west in the evening is the sign of fine 
weather to-morrow. 

Cf. our English proverb "a red sky in the morning is a 
shepherd's warning, a red sky at night is a shepherd's 


The varieties of rice found in the Khasi Hills are divided' 
into two main classes, one grown as a dry crop on high lands, 
and the other raised in valleys and hollows which are artificially 
irrigated from hill streams. The lowland rice is more pro- 
ductive than that grown on high lands, the average per acre of 
the former, according to the agricultural bulletin, as ascertained 
from the results of 817 experimental crop cuttings carried out 
during the fifteen years preceding the year 1898, being 
11*7 maunds of paddy per acre, as against an average of 9*4 
maunds per acre (resulting from 667 cuttings made during the 
same period) for the latter. 1 The average out-turn of both 
kinds is extremely poor, as compared with that of any descrip- 
tion of rice grown in the plains. The rice grown in the hills 
is said by the Agricultural Department to be of inferior quality, 
the grain when cleaned being of a red colour, and extremely 

1 See Bulletin No. 5 of the Agricultural Department of Assam, 1898, 
pp. 4 and 5. 


coarse. The cultivation of potatoes is practically confined to 
the Khasi Hills, there being little or none in the Jaintia Hills. 
The normal out-turn of the summer crop sown in February and 
harvested in June is reported by the Agricultural Department 
to be five times the quantity of seed used, and that of the 
winter crop, sown in August and September on the land from 
which the summer crop has been taken, and harvested in 
December, twice the quantity of seed. The winter crop is 
raised chiefly for the purpose of obtaining seed for the spring 
sowings, as it is found difficult to keep potatoes from the 
summer crop in good condition till the following spring. The 
usual quantity of seed used to the acre at each sowing is about 
9 maunds, so that the gross out-turn of an acre of land 
cultivated with potatoes during the year may be taken at 
63 maunds, and the net out-turn, after deducting the quantity 
of seed used, at 45 maunds. The above estimate of the 
Agricultural Department rests chiefly on the statements 
of the cultivators, and has not been adequately tested by 

Since the appearance of the potato disease in 1885-86 there 
has been a great decrease in the area under potato cultivation. 
In 1881-82 the exports of potatoes from the district were as 
high as 126,981 maunds. From 1886-87 the exports began 
annually to decrease, until in 1895-96 the very low figure of 
8,296 maunds was reached. The figures of export for nine 
years were as follows : 

1896-97 16,726 maunds. 

1897-98 7,805 

1898-99 9,272 

1899-00 5,422 

1900-01 29,142 

1901-02 38,251 

1902-03 36,047 

1903-04 50,990 

It will be seen that in the three years following the earth- 
quake of 1897 the exports fell very low indeed. Since 1901 
the trade has been steadily recovering, and the exports of 1904 
reached half a lakh of maunds. 

It will be observed that there has been some improvement, but 
the exports were still not half what they were in 1881-82. 

ii CROPS 45 

There are two kinds of sweet potatoes grown in the district, 
the Garo potato (u phan Karo), which appears to have been 
introduced from the Garo Hills, and u phan sawlia, the latter 
being distinguished from the Garo potato by its having a red 
skin, the Garo potato possessing a white skin. These kinds of 
potato are planted on all classes of land except hali ; they do 
best on jhumed and homestead lands. The yam proper (u phan 
shynreh] is also largely grown. The small plant with an edible 
root called by the Khasis u sohphlang (Flemingia vestita 
JBenth.), is also largely grown. The roots of the plant after 
being peeled are eaten raw by the Khasis. As far as we know 
this esculent is not cultivated in the adjoining hill districts, 
Job's tears (coix lachryma-Jobi) 1 are extensively grown, and 
are planted frequently with the sohphlang mentioned above. 
This cereal forms a substitute for rice amongst the poorer 
cultivators. Maize or Indian corn (u riew hadem) is grown 
frequently, thriving best on homestead land, and requires 
heavy manuring ; it is grown in rotation with potatoes. Next 
in importance to rice comes the millet (u krai), as a staple of 
food amongst the Khasis. There are three varieties of millets 
generally to be seen in the Khasi Hills: u 'rai-soh (Setaria 
Italica), u 'rai-shan (Paspalum sanguinalc), and u y rai-truh 
(Eleusine coracana). U 'rai-shan is cultivated in rotation with 
the potato, u 'rai-soh and 26 'rai-truh are generally cultivated on 
jhumed land, where they thrive well. Millet is sometimes used 
instead of rice in the manufacture of spirit by the Khasis ; u 
rymbai-ja (Phaseolus calcaratus\ and u rymbai ktung (Glycine 
soja) are beans which are cultivated occasionally. Khasis 
highly prize the fruit of the plantain, which they give to infants 
mashed up. The following are the best known varieties: 
Ka Jcait kh&n, lea Jcait siem, ka kait kulbuit y ka kait bamon, ka 
kait shyieng. 

The most important crop on the southern side of the hills is 
the orange, which has already been referred to in the paragraph 
dealing with agriculture, 

The oranges are sold by the spah or 100, which is not a 100 
literally, but somewhat over 3,000 oranges. Different places 


have different spaJis. At Phali Hat, on the Bogapani River, 
the spah is computed as follows : 

1 Hali = 4 oranges. 
8Halis = l Bhar. 

100 Bhars = shi spah (one hundred). 
= 3,200 oranges. 

At Sheila the computation is slightly different, being as 
follows : 

1 Gai=6 oranges. 

5 Gais + 2 oranges =32 oranges, or 1 bhar. 
4 Bhars = l hola=128 oranges. 
27 holas + 2 bhars = shi spah (100). 
= 3,520 oranges. 

By another method of calculation the spah consists of 3,240 

The price per spah varies from about 10 rupees in good 
years to Rs. 40 when the orange harvest has been a poor 

The lime is also cultivated, not separately, but along with 
the orange. The lime can be grown with success at a higher 
altitude than the orange. There is extensive betel-nut and 
pdn cultivation on the southern slopes of the hills. The betel- 
nut tree is cultivated in the same manner as in the plains, 
except that the trees are planted nearer to one another. The 
trees bear when eight to ten years old. A portion of the crop 
is sold just after it has been plucked ; this is called u 'wdi khdw, 
and is for winter consumption. The remainder of the crop is 
kept in large baskets, which are placed in tanks containing 
water, the baskets being completely immersed. This kind of 
betel-nut is called u 'wdi um. The Khasis, like the Assamese, 
prefer the fresh betel-nut. They do not relish the dry supdri 
so much. 

The principal pdn gardens are on the south side of the hills, 
pdn not being grown on the northern slopes, except in the 
neighbourhood of Jirang. The pdn creepers are raised from 
cuttings, the latter being planted close to the trees up which 
they are to be trained. The creeper is manured with leaf 
mould. The plant is watered by means of small bamboo 
aqueducts which are constructed along the hill-sides, the water 
being conducted along them often considerable distances. As 


in the plains, the leaves of the pdn creeper are collected 
throughout the year. 

The bay leaf (7a tyrpdd, or tezpdfy is classified in the Agri- 
cultural Bulletin as Cinnamomum tamala, and there is a note 
in the column of remarks that " this tree, as well as one or two 
others of the same genus, yields two distinct products, tezpdt 
(bay leaf) and cinnamon bark." The bay leaf is gathered for 
export from the extensive gardens in Maharam, Malaisohmat, 
Mawsynram, and other Khasi States. The plants are raised 
from seed, although there are no regular nurseries, the young 
seedlings being transplanted from the jungle, where they have 
germinated, to regular gardens. Bay leaf gardens are cleared 
of jungle and weeds periodically; otherwise no care is taken of 
them. The leaf-gathering season is from November to March. 
The leaves are allowed to dry for a day or two in the sun, and 
then packed in large baskets for export. The gathering of bay 
leaf begins when the trees are about four years old. 

The following are the other minor crops which are grown 
in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills : 

Pineapples, turmeric, ginger, pumpkins and gourds, the egg 
plant, chillies, sesamum, and a little sugar-cane. The arum 1 
(ka shiriw) is also extensively grown in the hills, and forms 
one of the principal articles of food amongst the poorer classes ; 
it is generally raised in rotation with potatoes, or is planted 
along with Job's tears. The stem of the arum is sometimes 
used as a vegetable, also for feeding pigs. 

In the Jowai Sub-Division, notably at Nartiang, there are 
fairly good mangoes, which are more free from worms than 
those grown in the plains of Assam. 

The Bhois and Lynngams cultivate lac. They plant arhar 
dal, u landoo y in their fields, and rear the lac insect on this 
plant. In 1906 the price of lac at Gauhati and Palasbari 
markets rose as high as Rs. 50 per maund of 82 Ibs., it is said, 
but the price at the outlying markets of Singra and Boko was 
about Rs. 30. The price of lac after having risen has fallen 
again since. The lac trade in the Jaintia Hills and in the 
southern portion of the Khyrim State is a valuable one. The 
profits, however, go largely to middle-men, who in the Jaintia 
1 Colocasia esculenta, Beng. Kachu. 


Hills are Syntengs from Jowai, who give out advances to the 
Bhoi cultivators on the condition that they will be repaid in 
lac. The Marwari merchants from the plains attend all the 
plains markets which are frequented by the hill-men, and buy 
up the lac and export it to Calcutta. The whole of the lac is of 
the kind kjiown as stick lac. 


weapons used by the Khasis for hunting are bows and 
arrows, the latter with barbed iron heads, and spears which are 
used both for casting and thrusting! Before proceeding on a 
hunting expedition the hunters break eggs, in order to ascertain 
whether they will be successful or not, and to which jungle 
they shall proceed. Offerings are also made to certain village 
deities, e.g., U Ryngkew, u Basa, and u Basa ki mrdd. A 
lucky day having been selected and the deities propitiated, the 
hunters start with a number of dogs trained to the chase, the 
latter being held on leashes by a party of men called ki nong- 
ai-ksew. When the dogs have picked up the scent some 
hunters are placed as " stops " (ki kteni), at points of vantage 
in the jungle, and the drive commences with loud shouts from 
the hunters, the same being continued until the object of the 
chase breaks into the open. The man who draws the first 
blood is called u nongsial, and the second man who scores a 
hit u nongban. These two men get larger shares of the flesh 
than the others. The nongsiat obtains the lower half of the 
body of the animal, thighs and feet excepted, called ka tdong, 
and the nongban one of the forequarters called ka tabla. The 
other hunters obtain a string of flesh each, and each hound gets 
a string of flesh to itself. These hunting parties pursue deer 
sometimes for many miles, and are indefatigable in the chase, 
the latter lasting occasionally more than one day. In the 
Jaintia Hills, at the end of the chase, the quarry is carried to 
the house of the nongsiat, where a puja is performed to some 
local deity, before the flesh is distributed. At Shangpung 
when a tiger or a mithan is killed, the head is cut off, and is 
carried in triumph to a hill in the neighbourhood where there 
is a duwan, or altar, at the foot of an oak tree (dieng sning). 

ii FISHING 49 

The head is displayed on the altar, and worship offered to 
u 'lei lyngdoh, the God of the doloiship. 

The Khasis make use of an ingenious species of spring gun 
for killing game, the spring gun being laid alongside a deer 
path in the jungle. A string stretched across the path, when 
touched, releases a bolt and spring, which latter impels a 
bamboo arrow with great force across the path. This spring 
gun is called ka riam siat. A pit-fall, with bamboo spikes at 
the bottom, is called u 'liw lep, and a trap of the pattern of 
the ordinary leopard trap is called ka riam slung. A noose 
attached to a long rope laid in a deer run is named riam 

There is also ka riam pap, the principle of which is that an 
animal is attracted by a bait to walk on to a platform ; the 
platform sinks under the weight of the animal, and a bolt is 
released which brings down a heavy roof from above weighted 
with stones, which crush the animal to death. 

There are several means employed in snaring birds ; one of 
the most common is to smear pieces of bamboo with the gum 
of the jack-tree, the former being tied to the branches of some 
wild fruit tree, upon which, when the fruit is ripe, the birds 
light and are caught by the bird lime. This is called ka riam 
thit. Another is a kind of spring bow made of bamboo which 
is laid on the ground in marshy places, such as are frequented 
by snipe and woodcock. This form of snare is unfortunately 
most common. A third is a cage into which birds are lured by 
means of a bait, the cage being hidden in the grass, and the 
entrance being so contrived that the birds can hop in but not 
out again. This is called ka riam aim. 


[Although there are some Khasis who fish with rod and line, 
it may be said that the national method of fishing IB to poison 
the streams^ Khasis, except the Wars and the people of Sheila, 
unlike the Assamese and Bengalis, do not fish with nets, nor do 
they use the bamboo-work device known by the Assamese as 
pala (*ffi) and/aAm ( i W^t^). The method offish-poisoning of 


the Khasis is the same as that described by Soppitt in his 
account of the tribes inhabiting North Cachar. The following 
is a description of how Khasis poison fish in the western portion 
of the district ; it may be taken as a sample of the whole. A 
large quantity of the bark of the tree ka mynta and the creeper 
u khariew is first brought to the river-side to a place on the 
stream a little above the pool which it is proposed to poison, 
where it is thoroughly beaten with sticks till the juice exudes 
and flows into the water, the juice being of a milky white 
colour. In a few minutes the fish begin to rise and splash 
about, and, becoming stupefied, allow themselves to be caught in 
the shallows. If the beating of the bark has been well carried 
out, many of the fish soon die and after a time float on the 
surface of the water. A large number of Khasis stand on the 
banks armed with bamboo scoops shaped like small landing 
nets, to catch the fish, and fish traps (ki khowar), Assamese 
khokd (C*tW)> are laid between the stones in the rapids to secure 
any fish that may escape the fishing party. Another fish poison 
is the berry u soh lew, the juice of which is beaten out in the 
same manner as described above. 

Soppitt says, certain fish do not appear to be susceptible to 
the poison, and not nearly the destruction takes place that is 
popularly supposed. The mahseer and the carp family gener- 
ally do not suffer much, whereas, on the other hand, the river 
shark, the lagh mas of the Bengalis, is killed in large numbers. 
It is impossible, however, in the opinion of the writer, that the 
mahseer fry, which abound in these hill rivers in the spring 
and early summer months, can escape being destroyed in great 
numbers when the streams are frequently poisoned. In the 
neighbourhood of lime quarries, and other large works where 
dynamite is used for blasting, this explosive is sometimes 
employed for killing fish. The practice, however, has been 
strictly prohibited, and there have been some cases in which the 
offenders have been punished in the courts. Fish-poisoning is 
bad enough, but dynamiting is still worse, as with an effective 
cartridge all the fish within a certain area are killed, none 
escape. When poisons are used, however, some fish are not 
affected by them, and others are only stupefied for the time 
being and afterwards recover. 

ii FOOD 51 


The Khasis and Syntengs ordinarily take two meals a day, 
one in the early morning and the other in the evening, but 
labourers and others who have to work hard in the open take a 
midday meal as well, consisting of cold boiled rice wrapped in 
a leaf (ka jd-song), cakes (ki kpu) and a tuberous root (u 
sohphlang) which is eaten raw. They are fond of all kinds of 
meat, especially pork and beef, although some of the Syntengs, 
owing to Hindu influence, abstain from eating the latter. Un- 
like the neighbouring Naga, Garo, and Kuki tribes, the Khasis 
abstain from the flesh of the dog. Both Bivar and Shadwell 
say the reason why the Khasis do not eat the flesh of the dog is 
because he is in a certain sense a sacred animal amongst them. 
There is a Khasi folk-tale relating how the dog came to be 
regarded as the friend of man. It is, however, quite possible 
that the Khasis may never have eaten the flesh of the dog from 
remote times, and it is nothing extraordinary that the Khasis 
should differ in a detail of diet from the neighbouring Thibeto- 
Burman tribes which are so dissimilar to them in many respects. 
The Khasis, except some of the Christian community and some 
of the people of Mawkhar, do not use milk, butter, or ghee 
as articles of food. In this respect they do not differ from the 
Kacharis and Rabhas of the plains or the Qaros of the hills. 
The Mongolian race in its millions as a rule does not use milk 
for food, although the Tibetans and some of the Turcoman 
tribes are exceptions. Before fowls or animals are killed for 
food, prayers must be said, and rice sprinkled on the body of 
the animal. The staple food of the Khasis is rice and dried 
fish. When rice cannot be obtained or is scarce, millet or Job's 
tears are used instead. The latter are boiled, and a sort of por- 
ridge is obtained, which is eaten either hot or cold according to 
fancy. Khasis eat the flesh of nearly all wild animals, they 
also eat field rats and one kind of monkey (u shri?i). The 
Syntengs and Lynngams are fond of tadpoles, and the Khasis 
consider a curry made from a kind of green frog, called ka 
japieh> a bonne louche. They, however, do not eat ordinary 
frogs (jakoid). The Khasis of Mariao, Maharam, Nongstoin 


and some other Siemships eat the hairy caterpillar, u'ftiang 

A staple food which must not be forgotten is the inner por- 
tion of the bark of the sago palm tree, ka tldi, which grows wild 
in the forest and attains a large size. The tree is felled and the 
outer bark removed, the soft inner part is cut into slices, dried 
in the sun, pounded in a mortar and then passed through a fine 
bamboo [sieve. A reddish flour is obtained, of sweet taste, 
which is boiled with rice. This flour is said to make good cakes 
and puddings. 

Although the Khasis are such varied feeders, there are some 
clans amongst them which are prohibited by the ordinance of 
sang, or taboo, from eating certain articles. The following are 
some instances : 

The Cherra Siem family cannot eat dried fish ('khd-piah) ; the 
Siem of Mylliem must not eat the gourd (u pathdw) ; a fish 
called ka'khd-lani is taboo to some of the Siem-lih class. Some 
of the Wdr people must not eat ka ktung (preserved fish), and 
the clan 'khar-um-n&id in Khyrim is debarred from the pleasure 
of partaking of pork. The flesh of the sow is sang to the 
'dkhar clan, although that of the male pig may be eaten. 


The Khasis are in the habit of regularly drinking consider- 
able quantities either of a spirit distilled from rice or millet 
(ka'iad pudka), or of rice-beer, which is of two kinds (1) ka'iad 
hiar, (2) ka'aid urn. Both of these are made from rice and, in 
some places, from millet, and the root of a plant called u kha- 
wiang. Ka'iad hiar is made by boiling the rice or millet. It is 
then taken out and spread over a mat, and, when it cools, frag- 
ments of the yeast (u khawiang) are sprinkled over it. After 
this it is placed in a basket, which is put in a wooden bowl. The 
basket is covered tightly with a cloth so as to be air-tight, and 
it is allowed to remain in this condition for a couple of days, 
during which time the liquor has oozed out into the bowl. To 
make ka'iad um the material, the rice or millet from which 
the ka'iad hiar was brewed, is made use of. It is placed in a 
large earthen pot and allowed to remain there for about five 


days to ferment, after which the liquor is strained off. Kaiad 
hiar is said to be stronger than Jca'iad um. The former is used 
frequently by distillers of country spirit for mixing with the wort 
so as to set up fermentation. The people of the high plateaux 
generally prefer rice spirit, and the Wars of the southern 
slopes of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills customarily partake of it 
also. The Khasis of the western hills, e.g. of the Nongstoin 
Siemship, and the Lynngams, Bhois, Lalungs, and Hadems 
almost invariably drink rice-beer, but the Syntengs, like the 
Khasi uplanders, drink rice-spirit. Rice-beer (kaiad um) is a 
necessary article for practically all Khasi and Synteng religious 
ceremonies of importance, it being the custom for the officiat- 
ing priest to pour out libations of liquor from a hollow gourd 
(u Hong} to the gods on these occasions. The excise rules in 
the district are by no means rigorous, and liquor of both 
descriptions can be possessed and sold with very little 

According to some Khasi traditions, the Khasis in ancient 
times used not to drink spirits, but confined themselves to rice- 
beer. It is only in the last couple of generations that the habit 
of drinking spirits has crept in, according to them. From Khasi 
accounts, the use of spirits is on the increase, but there is no 
means of testing these statements. There can be no doubt, 
however, that at the present time a very large amount of spirit 
is manufactured and consumed in the district. The spirit is 
distilled both for home consumption and for purposes of sale ; 
in some villages e.g. Mawlai and Marbisu, near Shillong, where 
there are fifty-nine and forty-nine stills respectively, there being 
a still almost in every house. Mawlai village supplies a great 
deal of the spirit which is drunk in Shillong, and from Marbisu 
spirit is carried for sale to various parts of the hills. Other 
large distilling centres are Cherrapunji, Jowai, Laitkynsew, 
Nongwar, and Rangthang. 

From what has been stated above some idea may be gathered 
how very large the number of stills in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills 
is. I am not in a position to state with any degree of accuracy 
what is the amount of spirit manufactured or consumed in the 
year, but it is very considerable. The out-turn of a Khasi still 
has been reckoned at from four to eight bottles per day. From 


this estimate, and the fact that there were in 1906 1530 stills 
in the district, and the number has not largely diminished since, 
it may be roughly calculated what is the consumption annually. 
Practically the whole of the spirit is consumed within 
the district. The liquor which is manufactured is far stronger 
than the spirit distilled in the ordinary out-stills in th6 plains. 
It has been stated by an expert analyst that the Khasi spirit 
contains 60 to 80 per cent, of proof spirit, and that it possesses 
" an exceptionally nice flavour and taste." The former price at 
which it was sold is 4 to 6 annas a quart bottle, a second quality 
being sometimes sold for 3 annas. It will be seen that the 
liquor was exceedingly cheap. A Khasi in the villages of the 
interior could get drunk for 2 annas, 1 or a quarter of an ordinary 
coolie's daily wage. Drunkenness prevails on every market 
day at Cherrapunji, Jowai, and other large h&ts, and on 
occasions when there are gatherings of the people for various 
purposes. This cheap but strong spirit is demoralising the 
people, and more restriction of its use would be welcomed by 
many. In the Khasi Welsh Methodist Church abstention from 
liquor is made a condition of Church membership, but the vast 
number of stills and the facilities with which liquor can be 
obtained are a constant source of temptation to the Christian 
community, and cause many defections. 2 


The Khasis have many games, but their principal game is 
archery; this may be said to be the national game, and is a 
very popular form of recreation amongst them, the sport being 
indulged in from about the beginning of January to the end of 
May each year. The following is a description of a Khasi 
archery meeting, for the details of which I am largely indebted 
to U Job Solomon. By way of introduction it should be stated 
that the Khasis opine that arrow-shooting originated at the 

1 About threepence. 

2 It may be mentioned tbat of late an attempt has been made, with the 
assistance of some of the Khasi Siems, to introduce a rough system of excise 
into the Khasi Hills, and, it is believed, that similar steps are being taken in 
the Jowai Sub-division also. 

ii GAMES 55 

beginning of creation. The Khasi Eve (Ka-mei-ka-nong 
hukum) had two sons to whom she taught the toxophilite art, 
at the same time she warned them never to lose their tempers 
over the game. At the present day villages have regular 
archery meetings, the men of one village challenging those of 
another. There are men on both sides called nong khan khnam 
(lit., he who stops the arrow). This man, by uttering spells, 
and reciting the shortcomings of the opposite side, is supposed 
to possess the power of preventing the arrows of the opposing 
party hitting the mark. These men also, to some extent, may 
be said to perform the duties of umpires. They may be styled 
umpires for the sake of convenience in this account. Before 
the match commences conditions are laid down by the umpires 
of both sides, such as (a) the day on which the contest is to 
take place ; (&) the place of the meeting ; (c) the number of 
arrows to be shot by each archer; (d) the distinguishing 
marks to be given to the arrows of either side ; (e) the 
amounts of the stakes on each side; (/) the number of times 
the competitors are to shoot on the day of the archery meet- 
ing, and many other conditions too numerous to mention 
here. The targets are generally small bundles of grass called 
" u skum," about 1 ft. long by 4 in. in diameter, fastened on a 
small pole. Sometimes targets are made from the root of a 
plant called ka soh pdung. The distances from the point 
where the marksmen stand to the targets are some 40 to 50 
yards. Each side has its own target, the different targets being 
placed in a line, and the competitors taking up their positions 
in a straight line at right angles to the line of fire, and facing 
the targets; each side in turn then shoots at its own target. 
Early in the morning of the day fixed for the contest the umpire 
of each side sits in front of his target with a hollow bamboo full 
of water in his hand, the bows and arrows being laid on the 
ground alongside the targets. The umpire then repeats all the 
conditions of the contest, invokes the aid of the primeval 
woman (ka mei ka nong hukum) aforesaid, goes through 
certain incantations freely referring to the many faults of the 
opposite side, and pours water at intervals from the bamboo 
in front of the target. This business lasts about two hours. 
Then they exhort the competitors of their respective 


sides, and the match commences amidst loud shouts. Every 
time there is a hit there are loud cheers, the competitors 
leaping high into the air, the umpires muttering their incan- 
tations all the while. At the end of each turn the number of 
hits are counted by representatives of both sides. At the close 
of the day the side with the greatest number of hits wins the 
match, the successful party returning home, dancing and 
shouting. The young women admirers of both sides assemble, 
and dispense refreshments to the competitors, taking a keen 
interest in the proceedings withal. Frequently large wagers 
are made on either side. In the Khadar Blang portion of the 
Nongkrem State as much as Rs. 500 are occasionally wagered on 
either side. In Jowai the practice is also to bet a lump sum, the 
amount being raised by subscription from amongst the com- 
petitors. More usual bets are, however, about one anna a head. 
The nong khang Jchnam and the men who prepare the targets 
receive presents from their respective sides. The Khasi bow 
carries a considerable distance, an arrow shot over 180 yards 
being within the personal knowledge of the writer. It is 
believed that Khasi bows wielded by experts carry up to 
200 yards. The average range may be said, however, to be 
150 to 180 yards. 

Yule mentions peg-top spinning amongst Khasi children as 
being indigenous and not an importation, but Bivar thinks 
that the game is of foreign introduction. I am, however, 
inclined to agree with Yule that peg-top spinning is indigenous, 
inasmuch as this game could not have been copied from the 
Sylhetis or the Assamese of the plains, who do not indulge in 
it. As the British had only recently established themselves in 
the hills when Yule wrote, they would scarcely have had time 
or opportunity to introduce an English children's game. Khasi 
children also play a kind of " hop Scotch " (khyndat mala shito 
and ia tiet Mh\ and Yule writes, " Another of their recreations 
is an old acquaintance also, which we are surprised to meet 
with in the Far East. A very tall, thick bamboo is planted in 
the ground, and well oiled. A silver ornament, or a few rupees, 
placed at the top, reward the successful climber/' A leg of 
mutton, or a piece of pork fixed at the top of this pole would 
render the pastime identical with the " greasy-pole " climbing 


of English villages. The following are some other Khasi 
games : 

Wrestling ; two persons grasping each other's hands with the 
fingers interlocked, and then trying to push one another down ; 
tug-of-war with a piece of stick, the two combatants placing 
their feet one against the other ; butting at one another like 
bulls, and trying to upset each other (ia tur masi) : long jump ; 
high jump; blind-man's buff; flying kites; pitching cowries 
into a hole in the ground ; a game like marbles, only played 
with round pebbles, and others. 


The manufactures of the Khasis are few in number, and do 
not seem to show any tendency to increase. On the contrary, 
two of the most important industries, the smelting of iron ore 
and the forging of iron implements therefrom, and the cotton- 
spinning industries at Mynso and Suhtnga, show signs of 
dying out. Ploughshares and hoes and bill-hooks can now be 
obtained more cheaply from the plains than from the forges 
in the hills, and Manchester piece goods are taking largely the 
place of cloths of local manufacture. The iron industry in 
former days was an important one, and there is abundant 
evidence that the workings were on a considerable scale, e.g. 
at Nongkrem and Laitlyngkot, in the shape of large granite 
boulders which have fallen to the ground from the sides of the 
hills owing to the softer rock which filled the interstices 
between the boulders having been worked out by the iron- 
workers, their process being to dig out the softer ferruginous 
rock, and then extract the iron ore from it by means of wash- 
ing. The softer rock having been removed, the heavier portions 
fell by their own weight, and rolled down to the bottom of the 
slopes, the result being the great number of boulders to be seen 
near the sites of these workings. 

Colonel Lister, writing in 1853, estimated that 20,000 maunds 
of iron were exported from the hills in the shape of hoes to 
the Assam Valley, and in lumps of pig iron to the Surma 
Valley, where it was used by boat-builders for clamps. Nowa- 
days the smelting of iron is carried on in very few places. 


There are still smelting-houses at Nongkrem and Nongsprung ? 
but these are practically the only places left where smelting 
of iron ore goes on ; there are many forges where rough iron, 
brought from the plains, is melted down and forged into bill- 
hooks and hoes. Messrs. Yule and Cracroft have described the 
native process of smelting iron, and it is only necessary to refer 
to their papers if information is required on the subject. Yule's 
account is a very full one, and is to be found at page 853, 
vol. xi. part ii. of the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. 
The system pursued, both in the extraction and in the subsequent 
smelting of the ore, is the same at the present day as that 
described by Yule. Dr. Oldham, writing in 1863, says, "The 
quality of this Khasi iron is excellent for all such purposes as 
Swedish iron is now used for. The impurity of the blooms 
(or masses of the metal in a molten state), however, as they are 
sent to market, is a great objection to its use, and the waste 
consequent thereon renders it expensive. It would also form 
steel or wootz (Indian steel) of excellent quality. I have no 
doubt that the manufacture could be greatly improved and 
possibly extended." Dr. Oldham, however, goes on to remark 
that the manufacture of iron could not be very much extended, 
owing to the scanty dissemination of the ore in the rocks, and 
the consequent high cost of obtaining it. At present the want 
of any permanent supply of water prevents the natives from 
working for more than a few days during the year, whilst the 
rains are heavy, and they can readily obtain sufficient force of 
water for the washing of the ore from its matrix. The export 
of iron in any form from the district has now almost died out, 
only a few hoes being brought down by the Khasis from 
Laitdom, in Khadsawphra, to the Burdwar and Palasbari 
markets in the Kamrup District of the Assam Valley. Iron of 
English manufacture has, of course, much cheapened the 
market, but probably the fact that the parts of the country in 
the neighbourhood of the rocks which contain the metal have 
been denuded completely of timber, charcoal being necessary 
for smelting, has affected the production almost as much as 
the presence of cheap iron in the market. 



The number of weavers in the district at the Census of 1901 
was 533. 1 This number in the Census Report is ascribed to 
the cotton industry, no mention being made of weavers of silk. 
The spinning of Eri silk thread, and weaving it into cloths is, 
however, a fairly considerable industry among the Khyrwang 
and Nongtung villages of the Jaintia Hills. The Nongtungs 
and Khyrwangs rear their own Eri worms, and spin the silk 
from the cocoons. The late Mr. Stack, in his admirable note 
on silk in Assam, says, " Throughout the whole range of the 
southern hills, from the Mikir country, Eri thread is in great 
request for weaving those striped cloths, in which the 
mountaineers delight," but this observation should have been 
confined to the Jaintia Hills portion of this district, the Khasis 
not weaving themselves either in silk or cotton. The Khasis 
obtain their silk cloths from the Assam Valley, and from the 
Nongtung or Khyrwang villages in Jaintia. The latter villages 
have given the name to the striped cloth, kajdin Khyrwang, 
which is almost invariably worn by the Syntengs. Mr. Stack 
has given in detail a description of the silk industry in Assam, 
and it is not therefore necessary to go over the same ground 
here. The Khyrwang cloth is red and white, mauve and white, 
or chocolate and white, the cloth being worn by both men and 
women. The Khyrwang cloths vary in price from Rs. 5 to 
Rs. 25, according to size and texture. These cloths are the 
handiwork of women alone, and a woman working every day 
regularly will take six months to manufacture a cloth valued 
at Rs. 25 ; but, as a rule, in the leisurely manner in which they 
work, it takes a year to complete it. 


In the Jaintia Hills at Mynso cotton is spun into thread, and 
weaving is carried on there, but on a limited scale. The Mynso 
people weave the small strips of cloth worn by the men to 

1 The total workers and dependants under the heading textiles in the Khasi 
and Jaintia Hills District was found to be 777 in 1911. 


serve the purpose of the Assamese lengti or Hindi languti. 
In Suhtnga the people import cotton thread from Mynso and 
weave the (ingki} or sleeveless coat peculiar to the district ; 
these coats are dyed red and blue. The dark blue or black dye 
is obtained from the leaf ofjaiplant called u sylu, which 
Mr. Rita has classified as l!$jjb1,lanthus hoeditolius, which 
grows in the gardens round the homesteads. The leaves are 
dried, then reduced to powder, mixed with hot water, and the 
skeins of thread are steeped in the liquid. The colour is 
permanent. The red dye is obtained from the mixture of the 
dry bark of two shrubs, ka lapyndong (Symplocos racemosa, 
Roxb.), and ka 'larnong (Morinda-tinctoria, Roxb.), the latter 
being the same as the Assamese (<*l i4t^) Achukdth. The bark 
is dried, then pounded, and the two sorts are mixed together 
and made into a paste with hot water. The skeins are steeped 
in this mixture for twenty-four hours, then taken out and 
divided, and again steeped for another twenty-four hours. The 
Lalungs and Bhois and Lynngams all weave cotton cloths, 
which are generally dyed blue, sometimes striped blue and 
red. The Wars weave cotton cloths which are dyed red and 
yellow, the cloths being woven in checks. Mr. Darrah remarks 
that the cotton grown in the Jaintia Hills is said to be the 
best cotton produced in the province. Its thread can be more 
closely woven than that of other kinds. This statement, 
however, is not borne out by Mr. Allen, writing in 1858, who 
says that the cotton is of inferior quality, the staple being 
short and woolly. The cotton cloths woven by the Bhois are 
called spua. 


The Census Report of 1901 gave the number of persons who 
were supported then by the manufacture of pottery at 54 only ; 
the Census report of 1911 figures are 7 only. Pottery is manu- 
factured at one place only in the Jaintia Hills, Larnai. The 
Larnai potters make many of the earthen pots to be found in 
the Khasi houses called khiew ranei, or sometimes khievj Larnai. 
Mr. Gait says, " These potters use two kinds of clay mixed; one 
is of a dark blue colour, 'dew-iong, and the other of a greyish 
colour, 'dew khluid. These clays seem to correspond closely 

From ,i drawing by Miss Kircnc Scott O'Connor 

ii POTTERY 61 

with the kum&r mdti and Tiira mdti of the Brahmaputra 

The clay at Larnai is well beaten out upon a hide, or upon a 
flat disc of wood ; the women fashion the pots by hand they 
do not use the potter's wheel. The pots are sun-dried and then 
fired. They are painted black with an infusion of a bark called 
sohliya. The Larnai potters also make flower-pots which are 
sold in Shillong at from 2 annas to 4 annas each, the price of 
the ordinary pot or Jchiew ranei varying from 2 pice to 4 annas 
each. A water-pot (khiew um) is also fashioned, which is 
sometimes used in the manufacture of liquor, price 4 annas to 
6 annas each. This industry may be said to be dying out. 



THE inhabitants of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills may be said 
to be divided into the following sections : Khasi, Synteng or 
Pnar, War, Bhoi, and Lynngam. These divisions represent 
collections of people inhabiting several tracts of country and 
speaking dialects which, although often deriving their origin 
from the Khasi roots, are frequently so dissimilar to the stan- 
dard language as to be almost unrecognisable. The above 
sections may be sub-divided as follows : The Khasis into the 
inhabitants of the central high plateau, Cherra and Nongstoin, 
Maharam, Mario, Nongkhlaw, and the neighbouring Siemships. 
The Syntengs or Pnars may be divided as follows : Into 
Syntengs proper, Nongtungs, and Kharwangs ; the Wars into 
War proper, and Wdr Pnar ; the Bhois into Jinthongs, Mynris, 
Eyngkhongs and the Khasi-Bhois, i.e. Khasis who inhabit the 
low country to the north of the district, which is called 
generally the " Bhoi/' The Lynngams are a separate division. 
They must not be confused with the Dkos or Hanas who are 
Garos. It must, however, be remembered that the Jinthong, 
Mynri, and Ryngkhong sub-divisions of the Bhoi division are 
not Khasi, but Mikir, i.e. they belong to the Bodo or Bara 
group. The Lynngams are half Khasis and half Garos, and 
the Dkos or Hanas are Garos who observe the Khasi custom of 
erecting memorial stones. The above tribes and sub-tribes are 
not strictly endogamous, nor are they strictly exogamous, but 

they are more endogamous than exogamous; for instance, 



Syntengs more often marry Syntengs than Khasis, and vice 
versdy and it would be usually considered derogatory for a 
Khasi of the Uplands to marry a Bhoi or War woman, and 
a disgrace to marry a Lynngam. These divisions are sub- 
divided into a number of septs, taking Sir H. Risley's definition 
of "sept" as being the largest exogamous division of "the tribe. 
It will, however, be more convenient to speak of these septs as 
" clans," the word " clan " having been used in other parts of 
this Monograph and by other writers. 

Many of the clans trace their descent from ancestresses or 
kiaiv (grandmothers), who are styled ki lawbei-Tynrai, lit. 
grandmothers of the root (i.e. the root of the tree of the clan). 
In some of the clans, the name of this ancestress survives ; take 
as instances the Mylliem-ngap and Mylliem-pdah clans of the 
Khyrim State, the names of the ancestresses of the clans being 
Ka Ngap (honey, i.e. the sweet one), and Ka Pdah respectively. 
This ancestress of the clan, as will be seen in the paragraph of 
the Monograph dealing with ancestor-worship, is greatly rever- 
enced, in fact, she may almost be said to be deified. The de- 
scendants of one ancestress of the clan, Ka lawbei-tynrai, are 
called shi kur or one clan. We then come to the division of 
the kpoh or sub-clan, all the descendants of one great grand- 
mother (Ka lawbei-tymmeri), being styled shi kpoh. The next 
division is the iing (lit. house) or family. It is almost in- 
variably the case that the grandmother, her daughters and the 
daughter's children, live together under one roof, the grand- 
mother during her life-time being the head of the house. The 
grandmother is styled Ka lawbei Khynraw, or the young grand- 
mother, to distinguish her from the other two grandmothers, Ka 
lawbei-tynrai and Ka lawbei-tymmen who have been mentioned 
above. The young grandmother, her daughters and their 
children are said to belong to shi iing y one house, the word iing 
in this instance possessing amongst the Khasis the same 
significance as the English word family. 

We will now see how the Khasi clan (kur or jaid) grew out 
of the Khasi family (iing). Let us take the example of the 
great Diengdoh clan of Cherra. Disregarding the myth that 
the Diengdohs are descended from a mermaid, it may be stated 
that there seems to be a fairly general belief amongst the 


Diengdohs that their first ancestress or kiaw came from the 
country beyond the Kopili river (some go so far as to say that 
she came from the Assam Valley), to the Jaintia Hills, where 
she found a husband. Legend relates that it was one of the 
peculiarities of this woman that she was able to accommodate 
herself in an earthen jar or lalu, which fact gave rise to the 
name Lalu by which she and her children were called by the 
Syntengs. The family prospered during the time when a 
powerful chief of the Malngiang clan held sway in the Jaintia 
Hills. On the death of this king a civil war arose, and the 
Lalu family, together with many others, beat a retreat across 
the river Kopili. Here they lived in prosperity for some 
generations until a plague arose and carried off the whole 
family except one female, called Ka law-law, who became the 
sole owner of the family wealth. Many desired to marry her 
for her possessions, and it was owing to their importunities that 
she fled to Jowai to the house of a lyngdoh or priest. The 
lyngdoh, under pressure from his wife, tried to sell Ka law- 
law as a slave, but no one would offer more than 20 cowries for 
her (shi-bdi)', this decided the lyngdok to keep her. Out of 
gratitude for this kindness, Ka law-law brought her wealth 
from beyond the Kopili to the lyngdoh y s house, when the son 
of the lyngdoh was given her in marriage. They lived happily 
for some time, when some adventurers from beyond the 
Kopili came to Jowai with the intention of carrying off this 
rich bride. The lyngdoh, however, having received warning of 
their intent, arranged for the escape of Ka law-law, and they 
fled to Sohphohkynrum, a place near Nongkrem in the 
Khasi Hills, where she established a village. Here Ka law- 
law was called Ka law-shibdi, because she paid every man 
who was engaged by her in founding a market there 20 cow- 
ries (shi-ldi} per day for their labours. Here also she is 
credited with having first introduced the art of smelting iron, 
and she is said to have made various iron implements which 
she exported to the plains. She is also said to have kept 
a huge herd of pigs which she fed in a large trough hollowed 
out of a diengdoh tree ; it is to this fact that the Diengdoh clan 
owes its name. After Ka law-shibdi and her children had 
lived for some years in prosperity at Sohphohkynrum, they 


were attacked by the Swarga Raja (the Ahom King), U long 
Raja (probably the Raja of Jaintia), and the Assamese Barphu- 
kan. They fled to a place called Lyndiangumthli, near Lyngkyr- 
dem. Finding this place unsuitable as a home, the family split 
up into four divisions. One division returned to Jowai, where it 
increased and multiplied and afterwards grew into the Lalu clan, 
another went to Nongkhlaw and became the Diengdoh Kylla 
clan ; another went to Mawiong and formed what is now known 
as the Pariong clan ; the fourth, after some vicissitudes of fortune, 
went to Rangjyrteh and Cherra, at which place it established 
the powerful Diengdohbah clan, and became afterwards one of 
the chief mantri or minister clans of this State. I have quoted 
the history of the origin of the Diengdoh clan at some length, 
to show what I consider to be an example of the Khasi concep- 
tions of how the clan was formed, i.e. from a common ances- 
tress, all of the clans having traditions more or less of descent 
from some particular Kiaw or ancestress. This story moreover 
is remarkable as pointing to a Khasi migration from beyond the 
Kopili river to their present abode. (The clans of the present 
day are nothing more or less than overgrown families, they are 
bound together by the religious tie of ancestor-worship in 
common, and of a common clan sepulchre, except in cases 
of clans which have, owing to their size, split up into several 
sub-divisions, like the Diengdoh clan ; such sub-divisions possess- 
ing their own cromlechs. Ancestor-worship in common and 
clan sepulchres in common seem to indicate that the original 
unit was the family and not the clan, for there would be no 
reason for the members of a clan to worship the same household 
gods and to deposit the remains of the clan members in the 
same tomb unless there was some strong tie, such as that oi 
consanguinity, binding them together^ It has been mentioned 
already that each of these clans is strictly exogamous; this 
again supports the family origin theory. (A Khasi can commit 
no greater sin than to marry within the clan. Some of the 
clans are prohibited moreover from intermarriage with other 
clans, because of such clans being of common descent^ If the 
titles (see Appendix) are carefully examined, it will be 
seen that some of them bear the names of animals, such 
as the Shriek or monkey clan, the Thorn or crab clan, or ol 



trees, such as the Diengdoh clan (already referred to). The 
members of these clans do not apparently regard the animals 
or natural objects, from which they derive their names, as 
totems, inasmuch as they do not abstain from killing, eating or 
utilising them. The names of these objects are connected 
generally with some story concerning the history of the clan, 
but there is no evidence to show that the clans-folk ever 
regarded the above animals or objects as their clan totems. If 
the lists of the Khyrim and Cherra clans are examined, it will 
be seen what a large number bear the name of Dkhar or its 
abbreviation 'Khar. The word dkhar is that applied by 
a Khasi to an inhabitant of the plains. We come across 
names such as 'khar-mulchi, 'khar sowali, the first word 
being an abbreviation of dkhar, and mukhi being the 
common Bengali name which occurs in Chandra Mukhi, 
Surjya Mukhi, &c. Sowali (chowali) is the common Assamese 
word for a girl. The ancestresses of these tribes were 
plains women, carried off, no doubt, in the raids made by 
the Khasis over the border into Assam and Sylhet. The word 
Jong in the list of clans is a Synteng synonym of kur or jaid, 
and the War word khong, which will often be found in the 
names of the tribes of the twenty-five villages of the Khyrim 
State, is merely a corruption of jong or iong, the Synteng word 
for clan. Let us now see how the State or Khasi Siemship was 
formed out of a collection of these clans, how these clans 
obtained political powers, how some clans became more power- 
ful than others, and how a Khasi King or Siem is appointed. 


j We have studied in the preceding chapter the formation of 
the clan from the family, and how the former, established 
villages. Let us now turn to the constitution of thevKhasi State, 
which, it will be seen, has been formed, in more than one 
instance, by the voluntary association of villages, or groups of 
villages. The head of the Khasi State is the Siem or chief. 
A Khasi State is a limited monarchy, the Siem's powers 
being much circumscribed. According to custom, he can per- 
form no act of any importance without first consulting and 




obtaining the approval of his durbar, upon which the state 
mantris sit./^ This durbar must not be confused with the 
electoral durbar which will be referred to later. 'It is 
an executive council over which the Siem presides, and 
also possesses judicial powers (for a description of a judicial 
durbar, see page 91 of the Monograph)^ The form of summons 
to appear before this durbar used to be a knotted piece of 
string or cane, the number of knots denoting the degrees of 
urgency of the summons, not a piece of pork, as one writer has 
said.j Pork is a luxury which is not usually distributed gratis. 
The Siem manages the State business through his manlris, 
although it is true that in some States the members of the 
Siem family have been allowed a considerable share of the 
State management. This latter arrangement is, however, a 
departure from the ordinary rule in the Siemships, and is 
regarded as unconstitutional. In some States there are village 
headmen, styled Sirdars, who settle cases, collect labour, and 
assess and receive for the chief the pynsuk, which may be 
literally translated as " gratification." In Nongstoin there is 
an official styled lyngskor, who is the superior of a number of 
village sirdars, and who acts as the Siem's deputy-governor. 
In the Khasi Hills there is no land revenue, nor are there any 
tithes or other imposts levied upon the cultivator's produce. 
The land, to a great extent, is the property of the different clans 
and villages, although in some instances there are estates owned 
by private persons. ((The chief is entitled to receive the income 
that arises from what are known as the raj or State lands only, 
All that the Siem usually receives from his people in the 
way of direct revenue is the State subscription, or pynsuk, 
mentioned above. Even this is supposed to be a voluntary 
contribution, and it is not demanded in some States. This 
tax is nominally a collection to meet the expenses of the State 
ceremonies, but is really a means of increasing the chiefs 
private income. The contribution varies in amount according 
to the means of the villagers. The Siem's principal source of 
income, however, in all the Khasi States is the toll (khrong), 
which he takes from those who sell at the markets in his 
territory. As the Khasis are great traders these tolls are often 
at the larger markets fairly valuable. The chief formerly raised 

F 2 

68 THE KHASIS ill 

no excise revenue, the manufacture of both fermented and 
distilled liquor being subject to no fiscal restrictions whatsoever. 
Nowadays in pursuance of the policy of trying to limit consump- 
tion of liquor the Siems are allowed to charge a small still tax, 
but the fees levied are inconsiderable. /Judicial fines are 
divided between the chief and the members of the durbar.^ In 
some States the Siems' incomes amount to a few hundreds a 
year only. Generally speaking, the Khasi chiefs are necessarily 
a very impecunious set of persons, and many of them are in- 
debted to, comparatively speaking, large amounts. The Siem 
is appointed from the Siem family, there being such a family 
in each of the fifteen Khasi States. The most important 
States are Khyrim, Mylliem, Cherra, Nongstoin, and Noiig- 
khlaw. There are a few other petty States presided over by 
Lyngdohs, Sirdars, or Wahadadars. j A fact which is of 
universal application is, that heirship to the Siemship lies 
through the female side. The customary line of succession is 
uniform in all cases,) except in Khyrim, save that in some 
instances cousins rank with brothers, or are preferred to 
grand-nephews, instead of being postponed to them. ' The 
difference between the rule of succession and the rule of 
inheritance to real property should be noted. In the former 
case the sons of the eldest uterine sister inherit in order of 
priority of birth, although it is true that this rule has some- 
times been disregarded. In cases of succession to realty, 
however, the inheritance goes to the youngest daughter of the 
deceased's mother, and after her to her youngest daughter. In 
successions to the Siemships, in the absence of male heirs from 
the* eldest sister the succession passes, by what has been aptly 
described as the "knight's move," to the male children of 
the next eldest sister/ In Khyrim the custom of succession is 
peculiar, there being a High Priestess, and heirship being 
limited to her male relatives. Generally speaking, it would 
appear that succession was originally controlled by a small 
electoral body constituted of the heads (lyngdohs) of certain 
priestly clans, who, it is presumed, exercised their authority 
to reject candidates, when necessary, mainly on religious 
grounds. There has, however, been a distinct tendency towards 
the broadening of the elective basis. In the large State of 


Khyrim the number of the electoral body has been greatly 
increased by the inclusion of the representative headmen of 
certain dominant but non-priestly clans (mantris). In other 
States the Council has been widened by the addition to it of 
village headmen (sirdars}, or the chief superintendents (basans) 
of the village markets, tolls from which constitute the chief 
item in the public receipts of these States. A further step 
towards the recognition of the public will in the nomination of 
a Siem has been the introduction of popular elections, at which 
all the adult males vote. Such popular elections were very 
greatly due to the views held by Colonel Bivar, who was 
Deputy-Commissioner of the Khasi and Jaintia Hills from 
1865 to 1877. These elections have been, in many States, an 
innovation which is hardly in accord with public sentiment, 
and in many cases the voters have done no more than confirm 
the selection of a special electoral body. It is, however, clear 
that the idea of popular elections is not one with which the 
people are unfamiliar, e.g. in Langrim State, where all the 
adult males customarily vote at an election of a Siem. 
Popular election has also been customary in the Nobosohpoh and 
Bhowal States, in cases where a special electoral body has been 
unable to agree upon a nomination, and also in Nongspung, if 
a Council of five lyngdohs, which has in this State authority 
to declare who is the rightful heir, but not to disqualify him, 
cannot come to an unanimous decision. The Siems are ap- 
pointed by an assembly, or durbar, which will be described 
later. The chiefs, having been thus chosen by the durbar, 
which is supposed by the people to be an institution of Divine 
origin, are styled, ki Siem u blei, or Siems of God. In most 
States the Siem is the religious as well as the secular head, e.g. 
in the Cherra State, where the Siem is also lyngdoh. In 
Khyrim State the Siem has sacerdotal duties to perform at 
different religious ceremonies, especially at the time of the 
annual Nongkrem dance. It is the custom for the Siem to 
consult the auspices with the soothsayers for the good of the 
State. The Siem in matters judicial acts as a judge, the whole 
body of the durbar being the jury. In olden days the Siem 
marched to war at the head of his army. It is not customary 
to recognise an heir-apparent, and the young men of the Siem 


family pursue the ordinary avocations of a Khasi, not comport- 
ing themselves in the least like scions of royalty. In quite 
recent years there have been instances of Siems having been sum- 
moned, like the Roman Cincinnatus, from quite humble posi- 
tions, to undertake the duties of chief. We will now turn to 
an examination of the systems in the different Siemships. In 
the Kyrim or Nongkrem State there is a spiritual head, i.e. a 
High Priestess, Ka Siem Sad, who is responsible for the due 
performance of the State religious ceremonies, although, as 
already stated, the Siem also performs some of these duties. 
The temporal power here is delegated by the High Priestess to 
a Siem, who is her son or her nephew, or occasionally some 
more distant male descendant. It is the duty of an official 
called a lyngskor, who is the official spokesman of the Siem's 
durbar, to propose a new Siem to the six lyngdohs, or priests, 
and to the heads of the twenty-four mantri clans. The latter 
then decide in durbar whether the proposed Siem should be 
appointed. In the event of their disapproving of the lyngskor's 
nominations they proceed to elect another Siem. The High 
Priestess is appointed by the above electors, the order of succes- 
sion to the post being as follows : She is succeeded by her eldest 
surviving daughter ; failing daughters, by the eldest daughter of 
her eldest daughter ; failing daughters of her eldest daughter, by 
the eldest daughter of her second daughter, and so on. If there 
are no daughters or grand-daughters, as above, she is succeeded 
by her eldest sister. In the absence of sisters she is succeeded 
by the eldest daughter of her mother's eldest sister, and so on. 
In this State the tradition runs that the firs,t High Priestess 
was Ka Pah Syntiew, i.e. the flower- lured one. Ka Pah 
Syntiew was a beautiful maiden who had as her abode 
a cave at Marai, near Nongkrem, whence she was enticed 
by a man of the Mylliem-ngap clan by means of a flower. 
She was taken by him to be his bride, and she became not 
only the first High Priestess, but also the mother of the 
Siems of Nongkrem. 1 In Nongkrem the electors may disqualify 
the first, or any, heir to the Siemship for sufficient reason 
according to the Khasi religion and custom, such as bad 
character, physical disability, change of religion, &c. If the 
1 For the story in detail, see the Folk-lore section of the Monograph. 


first heir be disqualified, the next in order must be appointed 
Siem, unless he be disqualified, and so on. In this State there 
are six divisions, each of which is known as a raj. In each raj 
there is a durbar, to which are submitted for approval the 
elections of the heads of the mantri clans. These elections are 
subject to the approval of the Siem. The Siem, sitting with 
the durbar of the raj concerned, may dismiss a lyngdoh, lyngskor, 
or mantri, for bad conduct, or on account of physical disability, 
in which case another lyngdoh, lyngslcor, or mantri would be 
appointed, as stated above. The Mylliem State originally 
formed a portion of the Nongkrem State, but owing to a 
quarrel between one of the Siems and his nephew there was a 
partition. In this state the electors are the heads of five 
mantri clans, eleven matabors, or heads of clans, and certain 
basans, and other heads of clans. A majority of the electors 
is sufficient for the election of a Siem. A Siem is succeeded by 
the eldest of his uterine brothers ; failing such brothers,, by the 
eldest of his sisters' sons ; failing such nephews, by the eldest 
of the sons of his sisters' daughters ; foiling such grand-nephews, 
by the eldest of the sons of his mother's sisters; and 
failing such first cousins, by the eldest of his male cousins on 
the female side, other than first cousins, those nearest in degree 
of relationship having prior claim. If there were no heirs male, 
as above, he would be succeeded by the eldest of his uterine 
sisters ; in the absence of such sisters, by the eldest of his 
sisters' daughters ; failing such nieces, by the eldest of the 
daughters of his sisters' daughters ; failing such grand-nieces, 
by the eldest of the daughters of his mother's sisters ; and 
failing such first cousins, by the eldest of his female cousins on 
the female side, other than first cousins, those nearest in degree 
of relationship having prior claim. A female Siem would be 
succeeded by her eldest son, and so on. As in the Khyrim 
State, the first, or any other subsequent heir, may be disqualified 
by the electors for sufficient reason. An elector is succeeded 
by the eldest of his brothers ; failing brothers, by the eldest of 
the sons of his sisters, and so on. An elector can be dismissed 
by the Siem, but only for good cause and with the consent of 
his durbar. 

In the Nongstoin State there is a tradition that the first 


Siem originally came from Simsong 1 Durgapur. The name, 
Sushong Durgapur, of the place at the foot of the Garo Hills in 
the Mymensing district, may be a corruption of the former. 
The Siems are supposed to be descended from a stag, possibly a 
relic of totemism in this family. In this State there is a, large 
electoral durbar consisting of 2 mantris, 31 lyngdohs, 25 sirdars, 
1 lyngskor, and 1 basan. The lyngdohs are the heads of the 
priestly clans, by whom they are chosen. The sirdars of 
villages are appointed by the Siem in conjunction with the 
adult males of the different villages. There are two lyngskors 
and two basans in the State, but one lyngskor and one basan 
only at present are members of the durbar which nominates the 
Siem. A lyngskor is the Siem's agent for the purpose of 
governing a collection of villages. He is appointed by the 
Siem with the consent of the adult males of the villages which 
he is to supervise. The Siem family of Nongkhlaw, or 
Khadsawphra, is believed to have been founded by a Synteng 
of the name of U Shajer, who left the Jowai hills with his 
sister, Ka Shaphlong, because she had failed to obtain her share 
of the family property in Jaintia. This man is said to have 
purchased certain lands in Bardwar in Kamrup. Apparently 
he did not obtain possession of this estate, for he came up into 
the Khasi Hills, and finding there certain villages without a 
ruler, he, at the wish of the lyngdohs of these villages, con- 
solidated them into a State over which he ruled as a Siem. He 
was succeeded by his sisters' son, U Syntiew, who further 
extended his territories until he obtained possession of other 
villages. U Syntiew is said to have delegated a portion of his 
powers to his two sisters, Ka Jem and Ka Sanglar, who ruled 
at Sohiong and Nongkhlaw respectively. Succeeding rulers 
further extended the Nongkhlaw territory. In 1829, U Tirut 
Singh rebelled against the East India Company and carried on 
for four years a successful guerilla warfare. He was finally 
captured, and was imprisoned for life by the British Govern- 
ment. According to the statement of Eaja Kine Singh, it 
would seem that formerly the heads of five clans had the right 
to appoint the Siem, i.e. the heads of 3 lyngdoh clans and of the 
Jaid Dykhar, and Diengdoh clans. In the Cherra State the 
1 Simsong is the Garo name for the river Someshwari. 


electors are the male adults of the State, who are represented 
on the State durbar by the mantris of the 12 aristocratic clans 
known as the khadar kur, and certain representative elders. 
This State is divided for electoral purposes into the following 
divisions : 

I. Cherra, or Sohra, consisting of 8 villages, inclusive of 
Cherra, which is the capital. These villages return the heads 
of the 12 tribes, as well as 5 elders, as their representatives on 
the electoral durbar. 

II. The " five " villages, or 5 tribes. This division now 
consists of 17 villages, which return 5 representative elders. 

III. The " twelve " villages, comprising now 38 villages, 
which return 12 representative elders. 

IV. The " four " villages, comprising now 5 villages, which 
return 4 elders. 

V. The "sixteen'* villages, which return 6 representative 

VI. Three villages, which return 3 and 4 sirdars and 2 elders 

In this State it is the custom for a Siem to cremate the body 
of his predecessor. Unless he performs the cremation ceremony 
he is not considered to be Siem according to the Khasi religion. 
U Hajon Manik Siem failed to cremate the body of his pre- 
decessor, U Ram Singh, whose remains were burnt by the 
present Siem of Cherra, U Roba Singh, quite recently. The 
remains of Siems in this State are preserved by a peculiar process 
of embalming which will be found described elsewhere in this 
Monograph. U Hajon Manik died not long ago, and his body 
awaits cremation. U Ram Singh's remains awaited the funeral 
pyre more than thirty years. The cremation of Siems in 
the State is attended by a very great deal of expense, a large 
amount of money being spent on the feasting which then takes 
place. A detailed description of the burning of the remains of 
the late U Ram Singh Siem is given later. The Maharam 
State was ruled until 1875 by two Siems, called, respectively, 
the "white" and the u black " Siems. In this State originally 
there were five lyngdohs who appointed the Siems, but as in 
certain other States the number of the electors has been 
expanded by the inclusion of mantris, sirdars, and basans. The 


electors now number seventy-two persons. There is much the 
same state of things in the Mariaw Siemship as regards the 
electorate. In Rambrai, on a vacancy occurring in the Siemship, 
three lyngdohs and two mantris assemble and decide who is to be 
Siem. They summon then the sirdars of villages to m$et them 
in durbar and obtain the approval of the latter to their nomina- 
tion. If the sirdars do not approve, the combined durbar then 
decides who is to become Siem. In Nongspung there is a 
tradition that two sisters, Ka Jah and Ka Jem, came to the 
village of Nongspung, which was then ruled by two lyngdohs, 
and that the latter, having ascertained that the two sisters were 
of royal birth, married them. They then travelled to other 
villages and obtained the consent of the lyngdohs of these villages 
to the formation of all their villages into a State, of which 
Nongspung became the capital, and over which U Sngi Shaflong, 
the son of Ka Jem, was appointed Siem by the five principal 
lyngdohs. After some generations the lyngdoh of Mairang with 
his villages became subject to the Siem of Nongkhlaw, an event 
which finds mention in the annals of the Nongkhlaw State as 
the conquest of the territory of the " Black " Siem of Nong- 
spung. Another lyngdoh was appointed in place of the one 
whose territory had been thus annexed. 

In the Mawiong State the ancient custom was that six basans 
appointed the Siem, subject to the approval of the people of the 
Siemship. In the Nobosohpoh State there are two Siem 
families, the " Black " and the " White," from either of which it 
has been the custom apparently for the people to select a Siem 
as they wished. In Mawsynram the electors of the Siem are 
the heads of the four principal clans in the State. On a recent 
occasion, the electors being equally divided regarding the 
appointment of a Siem, it was necessary to appeal to the people 
of the State. In Langrin there are, as in Maharam and 
Nobosohpoh, two main branches of the Siem family, i.e. the 
" Black " and the " White " Siems. Here there is no special 
electoral body ; all the adults of the State have the right to vote 
at the election of a Siem. In Bhawal State Siems are appointed 
by the heads of eight clans whose decision is apparently final, 
provided that it is unanimous. In Malai-Sohmat a bare 
majority of the heads of six clans would be sufficient for the 


election of a Siem. Presumably both in Bhawal and Malai- 
Sohmat, if the electors were equally divided, there would be 
an appeal to the people. Mention has been made above of 
States over which lyngdohs possess temporal as well as spiritual 
powers. The States of Sohiong, Mawphlang, and Lyniong may 
be quoted as examples. Here the lyngdoh is elected from the 
lyngdoh clan by all the adult males of the State. Some small 
States, such as Maodon and Pomsanngut, are presided over by 
Sirdars, a name which has probably been introduced during the 
British era of supremacy in these hills. The Sirdar is elected 
by the adult males of the State. In Mawlong there are a 
Sirdar, a lyngdoh, and a doloi who govern the State. These 
two latter officials are elected by the people as in the case of 
Sirdars. In the Sheila Confederacy there are four officials who 
are styled Wahadadars, the name being probably a corruption 
of the Persian 'uhda-dar. 1 These officials are elected for 
periods of three years each by the people. 

The Jaintia Hills, which are British territory, are divided up 
into twenty doloiships, the doloi being an officer elected by the 
people, the Government reserving the right of approval or the 
reverse to the doloi's appointment. The dolois, under the rules 
for the administration of justice in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills, 
as well as the Sirdars of the British villages in the Khasi Hills, 
possess certain judicial powers. They are assisted by officials 
known as pators, basans, and sangots in the performance of their 
duties. This administration, on the whole, works well, and its 
success shows the wisdom of the Government in having made 
use of the indigenous agency it found to hand when the Jaintia 
territory was annexed. In the Jaintia Hills there are also 
three Sirdarships, the office being filled by election as in the 
case of dolois. 

In conclusion it should be stated that it has been attempted 
here to give but a brief rfaumt of the Khasi political system as 
it exists at the present time. The above account of the procedure 
at elections is based on existing usage. The procedure should 
not, however, be regarded as stereotyped, for it will no doubt be 
open to such revision as may on occasion be suggested by the 
legitimate evolution of tribal customs. 

1 Officer. 



It is proposed in this section to consider marriage from its 
social side, the religious aspect thereof being reserved for 
another paragraph. The most remarkable feature of the Khasi 
marriage is that it is usual for the husband to live with his 
wife in his mother-in-law's house, and not for him to take 
his bride home, as is the case in other communities. This 
arrangement amongst the Khasis is no doubt due to the preva- 
lence of the matriarchate. As long as the wife lives in her 
mother's house, all her earnings go to her mother, who expends 
them on the maintenance of the family! Amongst the Khasis, 
after one or two children are born, and if a married couple get 
on well together, the husband frequently removes his wife and 
family to a house of his own, and from the time the wife leaves 
her mother's house she and her husband pool their earnings, 
which are expended for the support of the family.) Amongst 
the Syntengs, however, and the people of Maoshai, the case 
is different, for with them the husband does not go and 
live in his mother-in-law's house, he only visits her there. 
In Jowai some people admitted to me that the husband came to 
his mother-in-law's house after dark only, and that he did not 
eat, smoke, or even partake of betel-nut there, the idea being 
that because none of his earnings go to support this house, 
therefore it is not etiquette for him to partake of food or other 
refreshment there. If a Synteng house is visited, it is unusual 
to find the husbands of any of the married daughters there, 
although the sons of the family may be seen in the house when 
they have returned from work. Generally in the day-time you 
will find in a Synteng dwelling an old crone, who is the grand- 
mother, or even the great-grandmother, of the family, also 
grandchildren or great-grandchildren ; but the husbands of the 
married daughters are not there. The Syntengs seem to have 
more closely preserved the customs of the matriarchate than 
the Khasis, and the Syntengs claim that their niam or 
religious ceremonies are purer, i.e. that they more closely corre- 
spond to what they were in ancient times than those of the 
Khasis. Amongst the Syntengs, occasionally, a widow is 
allowed to keep her husband's bones after his death, on con- 


dition that she does not remarry ; the idea being that as long 
as the bones remain in the widow's keeping, the spirit of her 
husband is still with her. On this account many wives who 
revere their husband's memories, and who do not contemplate 
remarriage, purposely keep the bones for a long time. If a 
widow marries, even after the customary taboo period of one 
year, whilst her deceased husband's bones are still in her keep- 
ing, she is generally looked down upon. Her children in such 
a case perform the ceremony of handing over the bones of their 
father to his clan in a building specially erected for the purpose. 
The widow cannot enter therein, or even go near it, whilst the 
ceremony is proceeding, no matter whether ihejing sang, or the 
price for removing the taboo after a husband's death, has been 
paid to the husband's clan or not. There is no evidence to show 
that polyandry ever existed amongst the Khasis. Unlike the 
Thibetans/the Khasi women seem to have contented themselves 
always with one husband, at any rate with one at a time. 
Certainly at the present day they are monandrists. Polygamy 
does not exist amongst the Khasis ; such a practice would 
naturally not be in vogue amongst a people who observe the 
matriarchateAj There are instances, however, of men having 
wives other than those they have regularly married, and in the 
Wdr country children by such wives enjoy rights to their fathers 
acquired property equally with the children by the legally 
married wife. (^As the clans are strictly exogarnous, a Khasi 
cannot take a wife from his own clam; to do this would entail 
the most disastrous religious, as well as social consequences. 
For to marry within the clan is the greatest sin a Khasi can 
commit, and would cause excommunication by his kinsfolk and 
the refusal of funeral ceremonies at death, and his bones would 
not be allowed a resting-place in the sepulchre of the clan. To 
give a list of all the Khasi exogamous clans would perhaps serve 
no useful purpose, but I have prepared from information, kindly 
furnished me by the Siems of Khyrim and Cherrapunji, a list oi 
the clans in those States which will be found in Appendices A 
and B. These will suffice as examples. It will be seen from 
the Cherra list that the different divisions of the Diengdoh clan, 
viz. Lalu, Diengdoh-bah, Diengdoh-kylla, are prohibited from 
intermarriage ; this is due to those branches of the clan being 


descended from a common ancestress. There are other instances 
of clans being connected with one another, such connection 
being called by the Khasis iateh Jcur. Whenever such a connec- 
tion exists, intermarriage is strictly prohibited, and is considered 
to be sang. There is no custom of hypergamy. A Khasi 
cannot marry his maternal uncle's daughter during the lifetime 
of the maternal uncle. This is probably due to the fact that the 
maternal uncle, or Jmi, in a Khasi household is regarded more in 
the light of a father than of an uncle. His children, however, 
would belong to the clan of his wife, and there would, therefore, 
in ordinary cases be no bar to the nephew marrying one of 
them. Marriage with the daughters of a father's sister is not 
allowed during the lifetime of the father, but after the latter's 
death there is no religious ban, although such unions are looked 
upon with disfavour by the Khasis.J In the Wdr country, how- 
ever, such marriages are totally prohibited. /A Khasi cannot 
marry two sisters, but he can marry his deceased wife's sister 
after the expiry of one year from the wife's death, on payment 
of jing sang (price of sang, or taboo) to the wife's clan. A 
Khasi cannot marry the daughter of his father's brother, she is 
his para Jcha (lit. birth sister). Similarly he cannot marry 
the daughter of his father's paternal uncle. He can, however, 
marry the daughter of his mother's brother, provided that the 
brother is dead. This somewhat paradoxical state of affairs is 
explained by the fact that the children of the mother's 
brother belong to a different clan to that of the mother, i.e. to the 
mother's brother's wife's clan\ The Khasi, Synteng, War, and 
Lynngam divisions are not strictly endogamous groups, and 
there is nothing to prevent intermarriage between them. For 
instance, it has been the custom in the Nongkhlaw Siem family 
to obtain husbands for the princesses of the State from the 
Wdr country. (There is no custom amongst the Khasis of two 
men exchanging daughters, i.e. each marrying his son to 
the other's daughter. Notwithstanding the existence of the 
matriarchate, and the fact that all ancestral property is vested 
in the mother, it would be a mistake to suppose that the father 
is a nobody in the Khasi house. It is true that the kni, or 
mother's elder brother, is the head of the house, but the father 
is the executiye_heacl_ of the new home, where, after children 

in DIVORCE 79 

have been born to him, his wife and children live with him. It 
is he who faces the dangers of the jungles, and risks his life for 
wife and children. In his wife's clan he occupies a very high 
place, he is second to none but u kni, the maternal uncle, while 
in his own family circle a father and husband is nearer to his 
children and his wife than u kni. The Khasi saying is, " u kpa 
uba lah Ian iai, u kni uba tang ha ka iap ka im y " which may be 
translated freely as, " the father bears the heat and burden of the 
day, the maternal uncle only comes when it is a question of 
life or death." The Khasi father is revered not only when 
living, but also after death as U Thaw/ang, and special cere- 
monies are performed to propitiate his shade. Further remarks 
on the subject of marriage will be found in the Section which 
deals with religion. 


( Divorce amongst the Khasis is common, and may occur for 
a variety of reasons, such as adultery, barrenness, incompatibility 
"f temperament, &cA The rule amongst the Khasis is that both 
parties must agree,! but amongst the Wars, especially the 
people of Sheila, the party who divorces the other without his 
or her consent "must pay compensation, which is called ka 
mynrain, or ka thntm. Amongst the Khasis it is not the 
custom to enforce restitution of conjugal rights; as a rule, 
when husband and wife cannot live together amicably, they 
agree to divorce one another ; but occasionally it happens that 
either the husband or the wife will not agree to a divorce. 
Usually the husband would be willing to live with his wife ; but 
when the latter consents neither to live with her husband nor 
to accept a divorce, a difficult situation arises, and it is in the 
event of such a contingency happening that the necessity 
of assessing ka mynrain or ka thnem (compensation) occurs. 
The latter is computed by the village elders, (parties who have 
been divorced cannot afterwards remarry one another, but they 
are at liberty to marry into other families. A woman cannot 
be divorced during pregnancy A The following description of the 
divorce ceremony is taken from U Jeeban Roy's note on the 
Khasi religion. (If the marriage has been celebrated according 


to the pynkiar synjat rite, a ksiang (go-between) is necessary on 
each side, also the kni, or maternal uncles of the parties, 
to witness the divorce/r In other cases the presence of the 
ksiang is unnecessary, but some acquaintances and friends as 
well as the relatives on both sides should witness the ceremony. 
The husband and the wife each bring five cowries (sl)ai)\ or, more 
commonly nowadays, five pice. The wife gives her five cowries 
or pice to her husband, who places them with his, and then 
returns the five cowries or coins to his wife, together with his 
own five. The wife then returns the ten shells or coins to the 
husband, who throws them on the ground. A crier (u nong 
pyrta shnong) then goes round the village to proclaim the 
divorce, using the following words : 

" Kaw hear, oh villagers, that U and K have 

become separated in the presence of the elders. Hei ! thou, 

oh, young man, canst go and make love to Ka for she is 

now unmarried (khynraw\ and thou, oh, spinster, canst make 
love to U . Hei ! there is no let or hindrance from hence- 
forth/ ' */ (Among the Khasis divorce must be by mutual consent, 
and the ceremony must take place in the open air. Until the 
divorce ceremony has been performed as above described, 
neither husband nor wife can marry again, but after it has 
taken place, either can remarry, but not within the family of 
the divorced husband or wife. In the event of a husband 
or wife being absent for a long period, say ten years, without 
any communication having been received from either of them, 
a divorce ceremony is performed by the relatives on his or her 
behalf.') It is stated by U Jeeban Koy 1 that the rule of 
monogamy is not so strict for the husband as it is for the wife, 
he can contract an informal alliance with another woman, the 
only prohibition being that she must not belong to the original 
wife's village. Such a wife is called ka tynga tuh y literally, 
stolen wife, in contradistinction to the legally married wife 
(ka tynga trai). The children by the unmarried wife are 
called ki khun kliar (children from the top). By children from 
the top, is understood to mean children from the branches not 
from the root (traf) of the tree. Such children cannot claim 

1 See page 13, Ka Niam Khasi. (U Jeeban Roy. ) 

in DIVORCE 81 

ancestral property, except in the Wdr country. /In the event 
of a divorce the mother is always allowed the custody of the 
children. ^Divorces amongst both Khasis and Syntengs are of 
common occurrence, the result being that the children in many 
cases are ignorant of the names even of their fathers. (For the 
mother, on the other hand, the children cherish a very strong 
affection, all their sympathies and affections binding them 
closely to the mother's kin.) Divorce amongst the Syntengs, 
though resting on the same principle as that of the Khasis, 
differs in detail, and must be described separately. It is 
as follows : In the first place it is not necessary for both 
husband and wife to be consenting parties, as is the case with 
the Khasis. In the Nongkhlih doloiship divorce takes place 
before the relatives of the parties. The man has to give eight 
annas as a sign of the divorce, and clothes worth Rs. 3/- or 
Rs. 5/- to the wife. There is a similar custom in the Suhtnga 
and Amwi doloiships. In the Jowai doloiship the divorce takes 
place in the presence of a village official called V basan. The 
husband or the wife gives the basan an eight anna piece, the 
latter gives this either to the wife or to the husband, as the case 
may be. The basan s share of the eight annas is two pice, the 
remainder being spent on liquor. The basan is entitled to a 
further fee of one anna from the man. If a wife does not agree 
to accept divorce, she is entitled to receive two pieces of cloth 
from the husband to the value of Rs. 3/-. This compensation is 
called tknem. The divorce then takes place. If a wife wishes 
to divorce her husband, and the latter is unwilling, before she 
can obtain divorce, she must pay thncm to the value of the 
whole amount the husband has spent on her and her children 
during the marriage. Divorce customs in Nartiang and Nong- 
jinghi doloiships are much the same, only the amounts tendered 
by the parties and that of compensation differing. 

In conclusion it should be stated that the great drawback 
attaching to divorce in ordinary communities, i.e.(he effect 
that it has on the lives of the children of the marriage, does not 
apply to the Khasis, for with them the children always live 
with their mother and their mother's family, which latter 
would be bound to maintain them in the event of a 




The Khasi and Synteng laws of inheritance are practically 
the same, although in some of the doloiships in the Jaintia 
Hills there are some slight differences. The Wdr law of in- 
heritance differs greatly from that of the Khasis, and the 
customs of the Bhois or Mikirs, who inhabit the Bhoi doloiship 
of the Jaintia Hills, are totally different from those of the 
Khasis, thereby supplying another link in the chain of evidence 
in support of the conclusion that the Bhois, or, more correctly 
speaking, the Mikirs, are of Bodo origin, and not Khasi or Mon- 
Anam. The Lynngams follow the Khasi law of inheritance. 
It will be convenient to describe the Khasi law first, and then 
to pass on to the special customs in vogue in the different 
doloiships in the Jaintia Hills, and, finally, to describe the 
Wdr, Bhoi, and Lynngam customs. 

The Khasi saying is, " long jaid na ka Tcynthei " (from the 
woman sprang the clan). (The Khasis, when reckoning descent, 
count from the mother only; they speak of a family of brothers 
and sisters, who are the great grandchildren of one great 
grandmother, as ski Xpoh, which, being literally translated, is 
one womb, i.e. the issue of one womb. The man is nobody. 
If he is a brother, u Jcur, a brother being taken to mean an 
uterine brother, or a cousin-german, he will be lost to the 
family or clan directly he marries. If he be a husband, he 
is looked upon merely as u skong Jcha, a begetter?) In some of 
the Wd,r villages a newly married man is spoken of by the 
bride's family as, " u khun ki briew" some one else's son. It is, 
perhaps, somewhat of a paradox under the circumstances that 
wives should address their husbands as "kynrad" or lord. 
There is, however, no gainsaying the fact that the husband, at 
least in theory, is a stranger in his wife's home, and it is certain 
that he can take no part in the rites and ceremonies of his 
wife's family, and that his ashes after death can find no place 
within the wifeVfamily toml^except, in certain cases, amongst 
the Syntengs. (Further, the ceremonial religion amongst Khasis, 
especially fchat of the home, is in the hands of the women. It 
is, therefore, perhaps not to be wondered at, considering the 
important status assigned to women by the Khasis, that women 


should inherit the property and not men. The rule amongst 
the Khasis is that the youngest daughter " holds " the religion, 
" ka bat ka niam" Her house is called, " ka iing seng," and it 
is here that the members of the family assemble to witness 
her performance of the family ceremonies. Hers is, therefore, 
the largest share of the family property, because it is she 
whose duty it is to perform the family ceremonies, and pro- 
pitiate the family ancestors. The ther daughiber^ hosteler, on 
their mother's death are entitled, each of them, to a .share, of 
their mother's property, although the youngest daughter gets 
the lion's share, e.g. the family jewellery, and the family house, 
and the greater part of what it contains. The youngest 
daughter cannot dispose of the house without the unanimous 
consent of her sisters. If the youngest daughter dies, she is 
succeeded by the next youngest daughter, and so on. All the 
daughters are bound to repair the house of the youngest 
daughter free of cost. In the event of the youngest daughter 
changing her religion, or committing an act of sang, or taboo, 
she loses her position in the family, and is succeeded by her 
next youngest sister, as in the case of a death. Failing 
daughters, inheritance would pass by the " knight's move " to 
the sister's youngest daughter, who would be succeeded by her 
youngest daughter, and so on. Failing sister's daughters 
succession would revert to the mother's sisters and their female 
descendants/) In the Jaintia Hills the inheritance of all real 
property passes from mother to youngest daughter. No man 
in the uplands of the Jaintia Hills can possess landed property 
unless it is self-acquired property. In the Jaintia Hills, if a 
man dies and leaves acquired property, his heir will be his 
mother, if alive, excluding wife, sons, and daughters. If the 
wife, however, undertakes not to re-marry, she will inherit half 
of her husband's property, which at her death will descend to 
her youngest daughter by him. 

("Amongst Khasis all property which has been acquired by a 
man before marriage is considered to belong to his mother; 
indeed it may be said to belong to the man's kur, or clan, such 
property being called by Khasis, " ka mai iing kur " (the 
earnings of the house of the clan). After marriage, if there 
are children, the case is different, provided that the property 


has been acquired by the man after marriage. Here the wife 
and children would inherit the acquired property, the youngest 
daughter obtaining the largest share of such property on the 
death of the wife. If there were no daughter, the acquired 
property would be equally divided amongst the sons.^) 

The following examples of the Synteng law of inheritance 
are taken from the exhaustive diaries recorded by the late Mr. 
Heath, who was for some years Sub-Divisional Officer of Jowai. 
In the Nongkli doloiship ancestral land passes from mother bo 
her youngest daughter ; again, if a youngest daughter who has 
so acquired dies, the next youngest in point of age succeeds. 
Should such direct female succession fail, the family tree has to 
be looked up for the nearest branch, in which the youngest 
female, or her youngest female descendant, succeeds. Thus, 
respecting ancestral land, the youngest daughter, or youngest 
female descendant of youngest female heir, is virtually heir to 
entailed property. If a woman dies leaving acquired property, 
her youngest daughter or youngest granddaughter of that 
youngest daughter succeeds to all. In default, next youngest 
daughter, and so on. In default of daughters, the youngest son 
inherits. A man can hardly, in any circumstances, possess 
ancestral land; his property must almost necessarily be self- 
acquired. If a man dies leaving acquired property, his heir 
will be his mother, if alive, excluding wife, sons, and daughters. 
If the wife undertakes, however, not to marry again, she will 
get half, which will descend to her youngest daughter by her 
deceased husband. The mother, who thus gets the whole or 
half of her son's property, leaves it to her youngest daughter, 
or youngest daughter of that daughter, and so on, as described 
above in the case of a woman leaving ancestral or acquired pro- 
perty. If there is no mother, the man's youngest sister stands 
next heir with the same right as her mother. If there is no 
mother or sister, then the sister's female descendants stand in 
the man's mother's place. If there are none of these, then the 
man's youngest daughter succeeds to all. Ancestral property 
cannot be alienated without the consent of all the heirs in the 
entail. A gift of self-acquired property to any amount can be 
made by a donor during his lifetime. Acquired property can- 
not, however, be left by will out of the course sanctioned by 


custom. In the Amwi doloiship a widow who consents to pay 
the costs of her husband's funeral, provided she agrees not to 
re-marry, inherits half of her husband's acquired property. 

In the W&r country the children inherit both ancestral and 
acquired property in equal shares, both males and females, 
with the exception that the youngest daughter is given some- 
thing in addition to her share, although not such a large share 
of the property as amongst the Khasis. Amongst the Mikir- 
Bhois, i.e. the Mikirs who inhabit the Bhoi doloiship of the 
Jaintia Hills, the law of inheritance is totally different from 
that of the Khasis, for males jsucceed to all property, whether 
.ancestral or acquired. Thus, if a man dies, leaving son, mother, 
wife, and daughters, the son takes all. If there are several 
sons, they divide. If there are no sons, the property goes to the 
nearest male heir. If a woman dies, leaving husband and 
children, the husband takes all. If the husband is dead, and 
there are sons and daughters, the former inherit. The great 
difference in the custom of inheritance between Khasis and 
Bhois is, as I have already pointed out, part of the evidence 
that these people are of different origin. 

The Lynngam law of inheritance is the same as that of the 
Khasis. The youngest daughter obtains the largest share of 
the ancestral property, the remainder being Divided between 
the remaining daughters. The sons do not get any share. 
The rule is also said to apply with regard to acquired property. 


Both Khasis and Syntengs observe a custom known as 'rap 
iing (an abbreviation for ia rap iing, Kterally, to help the 
house). This is practically adoption, (if in a family the 
female members have died out, the male members of the family 
are allowed by custom to call (Idiot) a girl from some other 
family, to act as ka'rap iing, and to perform the family 
religious ceremonies, and therefore to inherit the family 
ancestral property. The female so introduced into the family 
then takes her place as ka khun khadduh, or youngest daughter, 
and becomes the head of the house (ka trai iing). The 
adoption of a female obviates the family dying out (iap duh\ 


which to the Khasi is a very serious matter, inasmuch as there 
will then be no one qualified to place the bones of its members 
within the family tomb (ha la thep shieng mawbali), and to 
perform the requisite funeral ceremonies. Amongst the 
Khasis no particular ceremonies are performed a*b the time of 
adoption ; but some of the Syntengs observe a religious cere- 
mony which consists largely of a feast to the clans-folk, at 
which liquor, rice, dried fish, and ginger are partaken of. 
Before the feast commences, each clansman is provided with a 
small gourd (u Hong) filled with liquor, a little of the latter is 
then thrown on the ground from the gourd, and the following 
words are uttered : 

" Oh, God ! oh, Lord ! oh, ruling king Biskurom, now the 
pynrap iing ceremony is about to be performed, let the cere- 
mony be propitious, and let males and females (of the clan) 
increase in numbers, so that the clan may become great, and 
respected, and that intelligent male members may spring up." 
No such ceremony is, however, observed, it is understood, in 
the Nartiang and Raliang doloiships. 

fin the case of a family being iap duh (extinct), the family 
property, according *to Khasi custom, passes to the Siern 
Therefore it is to the interest of the members of families to 
adopt a female, when such necessity arises. As there is no 
religious ceremony which is compulsory to the Khasis on the 
occasion of an adoption, perhaps we are almost justified in con- 
cluding that in former times the adoption custom did not exist, 
more especially as the Khasis possess a special word, iap dull, 
for describing a family the females of which have all died out ; 
and it is admittedly the custom for the Siem to succeed to the 
property of such a family. The Synteng custom of 'rap iing 
may have been borrowed from the Hindus, when the Rajas of 
Jaintia became converts to that religion. ?' 


Land in the Khasi Hills proper, i.e. land in the high plateau, 
is held somewhat differently from land in the Jaintia Hills and 
the War country ; it will be necessary to describe the land tenures 
and laws regarding land of each of these divisions separately. 


As land is always jhumed by the Bhois and Lynngams from 
year to year, customs regarding land with these people are 
naturally very simple. Taking land in the high plateau of 
the Khasi Hills first : The lands are classified under two 
main divisions, (a) public and (6) private lands. The fol- 
lowing are the different descriptions of lands in the first 
division : 

Ka ri Raj, or ka ri Siem, which are Siem's, or Crown lands. 
These lands are intended for the support of the Siem family, 
they cannot be alienated. The Siems are precluded, however, 
by custom from levying a land tax on persons who cultivate 
such lands, the relation of landlord and tenant between the 
latter and their chiefs being unknown. 

Ka ri Lyngdoh. These lands are for the support of the 
Lyngdohs or priests of the State. In some Siemships, as in 
Mawiang Siemship, paddy is grown on these lands from which 
rice is obtained for the State pujas. 

Ri shnony, or village lands. These lands are set apart to 
provide a supply of firewood, thatching grass, &c., and are the 
property of the village. The inhabitants of other villages are 
not allowed to enjoy the produce of such lands. Such lands 
can be cultivated by ryots of the village, but the latter possess 
only occupancy rights, and cannot transfer them. 

Ki 'lawkyngtang. These are sacred groves, situated generally 
near the summit of hills, composed of oak and rhododendron 
trees, which are held sacred (kyntang\ it being an offence, 
or sang, for any one to cut timber in the grove, except for 
cremation purposes. These groves are the property of the 

(&.) Private Lands. These may be sub-divided into ri-kur, 
or lands which are the property of the clan, and ri kynti, 
family, or acquired landed property. In the Khasi Hills 
proper a very large proportion, certainly of the high lands, is 
the property of the clan; for instance, the high lands at 
Laitkor, which are the property of the Khar kungor and 
Kur kulang clans, whose ancestors the large memorial stones 
close to the Laitkor road commemorate, also the lands of the 
Thang khiew clan, and many others. It has been explained, 
in a previous paragraph, how the clan grew out of the family. 


The clan lands originally, when population was sparse, were 
owned by families, but as the members of the family increased 
and a clan was formed, the lands became the property of 
the clan instead of the family. Such clan lands are properly 
demarcated by stone boundary marks. The manager of , the 
clan lands is the Tcni (maternal uncle of the youngest daughter 
of the main family, or branch of the clan), whose house " Jca 
iing khadduh" or last house, is the place for performing all 
the religious ceremonies of the clan, and is also called Jca 
iing seng. All the members of the clan are, however, entitled 
to share in the produce of any of the clan lands they may 
cultivate. No clan lands can be alienated without the consent 
of a durbar of the whole clan. 

Ri kynti are private lands which have been either acquired 
by a man or woman individually, or, in the case of a woman, 
inherited from her mother ; such lands must be entirely 
distinguished from the lands of the clan. In portions of the 
Jaintia Hills, if a man purchases a piece of land, at his death 
it passes to his mother, to the exclusion of his children ; but 
in the Khasi Hills nowadays a man may leave such lands, 
provided they were acquired after marriage, either formally 
by will, or informally, to his children for their support. 
In land customs as well as other customs the Syntengs 
seem to preserve more closely than the Khasis what are 
probably the ancient usages of the race. It must be clearly 
understood, however, that all land acquired by inheritance 
must follow the Khasi law of entail, by which property 
descends from the mother to the youngest daughter, and 
again from the latter to her youngest daughter. Ancestral 
landed property must therefore be owned by women always. 
The male members of the family may cultivate such lands, 
but they must carry all the produce to the house of their 
mother, who will divide it amongst the members of the 
family. Daughters, other than youngest daughters, are 
entitled to maintenance from the produce of such family 

In the Jaintia Hills lands are classified as follows : 



(1) Raj lands, which used to be the property of the Raja of 
Jaintiapur, now the property of Government, which are 
assessed to land revenue. 

(2) Service lands, which are lands given rent free to dolois, 
pators, and other officers who carry on the administration. 

(3) Village puja lands, being land the occupants of which 
pay rent to the doloi or lyngdoh, which are set apart in each 
village for purposes of worship. These lands are not assessed 
to revenue. 

(4) Private lands held by individuals, and which have been 
transferred from time to time by mortgage, sale, or otherwise at 
the will of the owner. These lands are not assessed to revenue. 

High lands are sub-divided into (1) Private lands, held like 
hali private lands. (2) Unclaimed land, or Government 

Up till now the Government has not assessed revenue on the 
high lands which are its own property. Surveys have been 
made from time to time of the Government Raj hali lands 
in the Jaintia Hills, but the maps require bringing up to 
date. The revenue on such lands is assessed at an uniform 
rate, viz. at 10 annas a bigha, and the leases have been issued so 
as to expire contemporaneously. A list of service lands of 
dolois and others, showing the number of plots held by each 
official and their approximate total area in bighas, is kept in the 
Deputy Commissioner's Office. Puja lands are plots of lands 
set apart entirely for the support of the lyngdohs and other 
persons who perform the pujas of the doloiships. These lands 
are generally leased out by the dolois, but in some doloiships 
they are under the management of the lyngdohs. The occupants 
of the puja lands have to present either annually sacrificial 
animals or objects, e.g. bulls, goats, fowls, or pigs, rice, liquor, 
&c., or make a payment in cash. In the W&r country in the 
Jaintia Hills, orange, pdn, and betel-nut gardens, are held as 
private property except in a few villages where there are some 
"R&jpdn gardens which have been assessed to land revenue at the 
same rates as Government hali lands. The various gardens are 
distinguishable by means of boundary stones or stone cairns, by 


prominent trees on the boundary lines, or by natural boundaries 
such as streams. 

In the War country to the West of Cherra, notably the 
country between the heights of Laitkynsew and the plains, con- 
siderable portions of the hill-sides are the property of commu- 
nities known as sengs. A seng may be defined as a collection 
of families sprung from some common ancestress or ancestor. 
As an instance of these sengs I may describe the community 
known as the lai seng which owns land in the neighbourhood 
of Laitkynsew, the area owned being known as the " ri lai seng" 
or land of the three clans. These clans are descended from 
three men, U Kynta, U Nabein, and U Tangrai, it being 
remarkable that in this case descent is traced originally from 
male ancestors and not from females. The three ancestors are 
said to have owned a large tract of land, and " they had as their 
abode the village of Laitmawria close to Laitkynsew ; but owing 
to an epidemic, or some such cause, they deserted the village of 
Laitmawria and went with their families to live in some of 
the surrounding War villages, viz. in Tyrna, Nongkroh, Nongwar, 
Mastoh, and Mawlong. The descendants of the three men 
above-mentioned possess a genealogical table, showing their 
descent from the original three founders of the sengs. They 
claim a large tract of country lying to the south and south-east 
of the Laitkynsew plateau, containing not only orange gardens 
but also valuable lime quarries. There are other seng commu- 
nities also in the neighbourhood, e.g. the hinriew phew seng, 
or sixty sengs, who put forward claims to other tracts of land. 
The boundaries of the ri lai seng are identifiable on the ground. 
The business of the seng community is managed by a durbar, 
an elder or other influential person being chosen as president. 

In the country of the Lynngams the crop belongs to the 
person who cultivates it, but the land belongs to the four or 
family. The Lynngam villages, like those in the Khasi Siem- 
ships, do not pay any rent to the Siem. If outsiders cultivate 
within the areas set apart for the different Lynngam villages, all 
of them, including women, have to pay eight annas each to the 
people of the village in whose circle they cultivate. There 
is usually a mutual understanding between inhabitants of 
Lynngam villages that certain tracts of land belong to the 


respective villages ; sometimes, however, there are disputes re- 
garding those lands between the different villages. Such dis- 
putes are settled by the Lynngam Sirdars of villages, or by the 
Sirdars sitting with the two Lyngskors of the Siemship. If 
the disputes cannot be settled by these officials to the satisfac- 
tion of the parties, the latter are taken by the Lyngskors and 
Sirdars to the Siem of Nongstoin, who tries the case with the 
aid of the State mantris. 


There is no separate law applying to personal property, as 
opposed to real property, amongst the Khasis. 

Khasi Courts of Judicature. 

In the first place a complaint is made before the Siem, 
or chief, against a certain party or parties. The facts and 
circumstances of the case are then detailed before the chief 
and his headmen, the ostensible object being to attempt to 
bring about a compromise between the parties. If no recon- 
ciliation can be effected, a crier (n nong pyrta shnong), or in the 
Jaintia Hills a sangot, is sent out to proclaim at the top of his 
voice the durbar which is to assemble the following evening. 
He proceeds to cry the durbar in the evening when all the 
inhabitants have returned to the village from their usual daily 
pursuits. With a loud premonitory yell the crier makes use of 
the following formula l : 

" Kaw! thou, a fellow-villager; thou, a fellow-creature; thou, 
an old man ; thou, who art grown up ; thou, who art young ; 
thou, a boy; thou, a child; thou, an infant; thou, who art 
little ; thou, who art great. Hei I because there is a contest. 
Hei! for to cause to sit together. Hei! for to cause to 
deliberate. Hei ! for to give intelligence together. Hei ! about 
to assemble in durbar. Hei ! for to listen attentively. Hei ! 
ye are forbidden. Hei ! ye are stopped to draw water then 

1 What follows is a literal translation of the Khasi. 


not to cut firewood then; Hei! to go as coolies then; Hei! 
to go to work then; Hei! to go a journey then; Hei! to 
descend to the valley then; Hei! he who has ; a pouch. Hei ! 
he who has a bag. Hei ! now come forth. Hei ! now appear. 
Hei! the hearing then is to be all in company. Hei! the 
listening attentively then is to be all together. Hei ! for his 
own king. Hei ! for his own lord, lest destruction has come ; 
lest wearing away has overtaken uus. Kaw! come forth now 
fellow mates." 

This proclamation is called khang shnong, and by it all are 
stopped from going anywhere from the village the following day. 
Anybody who disregards the prohibition is liable to a fine. 
The following day, towards evening, all the grown-up males 
of the village assemble at the durbar ground, the site of 
which is marked in some villages by rows of flat stones, 
arranged in an irregular circle, upon which the durbaris sit. 
The proceedings are opened by one of the headmen, who makes 
a long speech ; then others follow, touching upon all sorts 
of irrelevant matters, but throwing out hints, now and then, 
bearing on the subject of accusation. By degrees the debate 
waxes warmer, and the parties get nearer the point. Then the 
complainant and the defendant each of them throw down on the 
ground a turban, or a bag containing betel and pdn, lime, &c., in 
front of the durbar. These are regarded as the pledges of the 
respective parties and their representatives in the suit ; they 
receive the name ofmamla (hence the Khasi term ar Hang mamla 
for the two contending parties in the suit). There are pleaders 
on both sides called 'riw said, who address the durbar in 
lengthy speeches, the Siem being the judge and the whole body 
of the durbar the jury. Witnesses are examined by the parties ; 
in former times they were sworn on a pinch of salt placed 
on a sword. The most sacred and most binding form of oath, 
however, is sworn on u klong (a hollow gourd containing liquor). 
As, however, the latter form of oath is regarded by the Khasis 
as a most serious ordeal, it will be described separately. The 
durbar sometimes goes on for several days. At length the 
finding of the durbar is taken, after the Siem has summed up, 
and sentence is pronounced, which generally consists of a fine in 
money, almost always accompanied by an order to the losing 


party to present a pig. The pig is supposed to be sacrificed 
to a goddess, Ka 'lei synshar, i.e. the goddess of the State, 
but it is invariably eaten by the Siem, and the members 
of the durbar. The Siem then calls out " kumta mo khynraw " 
(is it not so, young people ?) The members of the durbar then 
reply, " haoid kunita khein khynraw" (yea, it is so, young 
ones). Sentences of fine are more often resorted to than other 
punishments nowadays, probably because very few of the 
Siems possess jails for the reception of criminals. The con- 
demned one in a criminal case frequently serves his time by 
working for the Siem as a menial servant. The above descrip- 
tion, which is based on the account given by the Rev. W. Lewis, 
with some modifications, may be taken as the usual form of 
procedure of the Khasi durbar. 

Under the heading of decision of disputes we may perhaps 
give a short description of some of the punishments which were 
inflicted by the Siems and their durbars in criminal cases 
in ancient times. Murder was punishable by beating the 
culprit to death with clubs (ki tangon Id lymban). The killing, 
however, of a nong sJwh noh, i.e. a man who seeks for human 
victims to sacrifice to the monster, u thlen, is not considered 
murder, even now, by the Khasis, and the slayer of the nong 
sholi noli only has to inform the Siem and deposit Rs. 5, and 
one pig in the Siem's court. The slaying of a robber also is 
dealt with in like manner. 

The punishment of adultery was imprisonment for life (ka sah 
dam mur\ or a fine of Rs. 1,100, and one pig (ka khadwei spah 
wei doll). Whether such a heavy fine was ever paid is perhaps 
doubtful, and probably some other form of punishment was 
substituted for it. A husband finding his wife and a man in 
flagranie delicto could, as under the law of the ancients, kill 
both adulterer and adulteress without punishment for murder. 
He was, however, bound to deposit Rs. 5, and the conventional 
pig in the Siem's durbar. The punishment for rape (kaba 
khniot tynya} was imprisonment for life in the case of the 
woman being married, and a heavy fine and one pig if the 
woman was a spinster. Arson was punishable with imprison- 
ment for life, or a heavy fine. The punishment for causing 
people to be possessed by devils (ka la ai-ksuid briew) was 


exile (pyrangkang par) ; but if a person so possessed died, the 
sorcerer was hurled down a precipice (pynnoh khongpong). The 
punishment for robbery and theft was the stocks (ka pyndait 
diengsong), the imposition of fetters, or a punishment known as 
kaba s'ang sohmynken, by which the culprit was compelled to 
sit on a bamboo platform under which chillies were burnt. The 
result of such torture can be better imagined than described. 

Incest, or sang, which, amongst the Khasis means cohabiting 
with a member of a man's or woman's own clan, was punishable 
with exile or a fine of Rs. 550/- and one pig. It is believed by 
the Khasis that the evils resultant from incestuous connec- 
tion are very great ; the following are some of them : being 
struck by lightning, being killed by a tiger, dying in child- 
birth, &c. 


I. Water Ordeal. 

In ancient times the Khasis used to decide certain cases by 
means of water ordeal (ka ngam um). Yule, writing in 1844, 
mentions a water ordeal, and one of my Khasi friends remembers 
to have seen one during his boyhood. There were two kinds of 
such ordeals. The first, called ka ngam ksih, was as follows : 
The two disputants in a case would each of them fix a spear under 
water in some deep pool. They would then dive and catch hold 
of the spear. The man who remained longest under water 
without returning to the surface was adjudged by the Siem and 
durbar to have won the case. Colonel Maxwell, late Superin- 
tendent of the Manipur State, witnessed a similar ordeal in the 
Manipur State in the year 1903, when two Manipuris dived to 
the bottom of a river and held on to stones, the result being 
that one man, who remained under water in the most determined 
way, was very nearly drowned. Amongst the Khasis sometimes 
the supporters of the contending parties used to compel the 
divers to remain under water by holding them down with their 
spears. Another form of trial was to place two pots, each of 
them containing a piece of gold and a piece of silver wrapped 
up in cloths, in shallow water. The two contending parties 


were then directed to plunge their hands into the water and 
take up, each of them, one of the packets. The party who 
brought up a piece of gold was adjudged the victor. If both 
parties brought up either gold or silver, then the case was 
amicably settled by the Durbar, and if it was a land case, the 
land was equally divided between the parties. No instances of 
trial of cases by such ordeals have come to notice of late years. 
Yule, referring to water ordeals, says : " I have been told that 
it was lawful to use the services of practised attorneys in this 
mode of trial ; so that long-winded lawyers have as decided a 
preference in these regions as they have elsewhere." 

2. Ordeal "by U Klong, or "by U Klong U Khnam, in the 

Wdr Country. 

Of all the ordeals these are the most dreaded by the Khasis. 
They believe that if a person swears falsely by u klong or 
u klong u khnam, he will die or, if he represents his family (i.e. 
wife and children) or his clan (kur\ that his family and his 
clan will die out. Siems, Wahadadars, Lyngdohs, &c., do not 
order litigants, or even propose to them, to have their cases 
decided by this ordeal, fearing to incur blame for choosing it, 
owing to possible evil consequence thereafter to the parties. 
One of the parties must propose and the other must accept 
the ordeal, of their own accord and in open Court or Durbar. 
A gourd (u klong) containing fermented rice (ka sohpoh) is 
provided, and a feathered arrow with a barbed iron head 
is planted in the fermented rice. The following is the 
procedure : 

The person who wishes to take the oath brings a gourd of 
fermented rice, or a gourd with an arrow stuck in it, as the case 
may be, and makes it over to the judge, or a deputy appointed 
by such judge for this duty. The latter, before returning it to 
him, invokes the goddess as follows : 

" Come down, and bear witness, thou goddess who reignest 
above and below, who Greatest man, who placest him (on earth), 
who judgest the right and the wrong, who givest him being and 
stature (i.e. life). Thou goddess of the State, thou goddess of 
the place, who preservest the village, who preservest the State 


come down and judge. If this man's cause be unrighteous, 
then shall he lose his stature (being), he shall lose his age 
(life), he shall lose his clan, he shall lose his wife and children ; 
only the posts of his house shall remain, only the walls of his 
house shall remain, only the small posts and the stones of the 
fireplace shall remain, he shall be afflicted with colic, he shall be 
racked with excruciating pains, he shall fall on the piercing 
arrow, he shall fall on the lacerating arrow, his dead body shall 
be carried off by kites, it shall be carried off by the crows, his 
family and his clan shall not find it ; he shall become a dog, h6 
shall become a cat, he shall creep in dung, he shall creep 
in urine, and he shall receive punishment at thy hands, 
oh, goddess, and at the hands of man. If, on the other hand, 
his cause be righteous (lit. lada u kren hok) he shall be well, he 
shall be prosperous, he shall live long, he shall live to be 
an elder, he shall rise to be a defender and preserver of 
his clan, he shall be a master of tens and a master of hundreds 
(immensely rich), and all the world shall see it. Hear, oh, 
goddess, thou who judgest." (The whole of this invocation 
is uttered while a libation is poured out from u klong.} 
U klong is next invoked as follows : 

" Thou, u klong, with whose assistance according to our 
religion and our custom, a man when he is born into the world 
is named hear and judge. If he speaks falsely (his cause be 
false), his name shall be cut off (by thee) and he shall surely 

The fermented rice is then invoked as follows : 
" Thou yeast, thou charcoal, thou rice of the plough, thou 
rice of the yoke, thou, too, hear and judge. If he speaks 
falsely, eat off his tongue, eat away his mouth." 
The arrow is lastly invoked as follows : 
"Thou piercing and lacerating arrow, as thou hast been 
ordained by the goddess, who creates man, who appoints man 
to occupy a pre-eminent place in war and in controversy, do 
thou hear and judge. If he (i.e. the' man taking the oath) 
speaks falsely, let him fall upon thee, let him be cut and 
be torn, and let him be afflicted with shooting and pricking 
pains." The man then takes u klong or, u klong u khnam, and 
holds it on his head, and while in that posture utters the same 

ill WAR 97 

invocation. U Idong is then made over to the judge (the Siem 
or the Sirdar as the case may be, &c.). 

The person who undergoes the above ordeal wins the case, 
the production of evidence being unnecessary. 


Although the Khasis, unlike the Nagas, the Garos, the wild 
Was of Burma, the Dayaks of Borneo, and other head-hunting 
tribes, cannot be said to have indulged in head-hunting in 
ancient times, as far as we know, merely for the sake of 
collecting heads as trophies, there seems to be some reference 
to a custom of head-hunting in a description of the worship of 
the god u Syngkai Bdmon, one of the principal gods of war 
amongst the Khasis. This god is described in one of the folk 
tales (I have obtained it through the kindness of Dr. Roberts, 
who was formerly the Welsh missionary at Cherrapunji) as 
being the deity who gives the heads of the enemy to the success- 
ful warriors. To this god, as well as to Ka Rdm Shandi, they 
offer a cock. Before sacrifice the warriors dance round an altar, 
upon which are placed a plume of cock's feathers (u thuia), a 
sword, a shield, a bow, an arrow, a quiver, pdn leaves, and flowers. 
After the cock has been sacrificed, they fix its head on the 
point of a sword and shout three times. The fixing of the 
cock's head on the point of the sword is said to have been 
symbolical of the fixing of the human head of an enemy killed 
in battle, on the top of the soh-lang tree. Mr. Shadwell, of 
Cherrapunji, whose memory carried him back to the time when 
the British first occupied the Khasi Hills, had a recollection of 
a Khasi dance at Cherra, round an altar, upon which the heads 
of some Dykhars, or plains people, killed in a frontier raid had 
been placed. The Khasis used to sacrifice to a number of 
other gods also for success in battle. An interesting feature of 
the ancient combats between the people of different Siemships 
was the challenge. When the respective armies had arrived at 
a little distance from one another, they used to stop to hear 
each other shout the 'tien-Blei, or challenge, to the other side. 
This custom was called pyrta, 'tien-Blei, or shouting out the 
challenge. From the records available of the military opera- 


98 THE KHASIS ill 

tions of the Khasis against the British, the former appear to 
have relied principally on bows and arrows, ambushes and 
surprises, when they fought against us at the time of our 
first occupation of the hills. During the Jaintia rebellion 
firearms were used, to some extent, by the Syntengs. The 
military records do not, however, disclose any peculiar battle 
customs as having been prevalent amongst those hill people 
then. Both Khasis and Syntengs seem to have fought much 
in the same manner as other savage hill-men have fought 
against a foe armed with superior weapons. 

The Thlen Superstition. 

There is a superstition among the Khasis concerning U 
thlen, a gigantic snake which requires to be appeased by the 
sacrifice of human victims, and for whose sake murders have 
even in fairly recent times been committed. The following 
account, the substance of which appeared in the Assam Gazette 
in August, 1882, but to which considerable additions have been 
made, will illustrate this interesting superstition : " The 
tradition is that there was once in a cave near Cherrapunji, 1 
a gigantic snake, or Men, who committed great havoc among 
men and animals. At last one man, bolder than his fellows, 
took with him a herd of goats, and set himself down by 
the cave, and offered them one by one to the Men. By 
degrees the monster became friendly, and learnt to open 
his mouth at a word from the man, to receive the lump 
of flesh which was then thrown in. When confidence was 
thoroughly established, the man, acting under the advice of a god 
called USuid- nok 2 (who has as his abode a grove near Sohrarim), 
having heated a lump of iron red hot in a furnace, induced 
the snake, at the usual signal, to open his mouth, and then 

1 This cave is at Pomdalai, some five miles west of Cherrapunji, close to a 
great waterfall called Noh Ka Lihai, i.e. the place where Ka Likai jumped 
down the precipice (for a full account of this story see Section V. of the 
Monograph), where there is a large block of stone, with some cuts over it, 
known as Dain Thlen, i.e. the snake cutting (place). 

2 In another account it is said to have been U Suid-noh himself who did 


threw in the red-hot lump, and so killed him. He proceeded 
to cut up the body, and sent pieces in every direction, with 
orders that the people were to eat them. Wherever the order 
was obeyed, the country became free of the Men, but one 
small piece remained which no one would eat, and from this 
sprang a multitude of thlens, which infest the residents of 
Cherra and its neighbourhood. When a Men takes up its 
abode in a family there is no means of getting rid of it, though 
it occasionally leaves of its own accord, and often follows 
family property that is given away or sold. The Men 
attaches itself to property, and brings prosperity and wealth to 
the owners, but on the condition that it is supplied with blood. 
Its craving comes on at uncertain intervals, and manifests 
itself by sickness, by misadventure, or by increasing poverty 
befalling the family that owns the property. It can only be 
appeased by the murder of a human being." The murderer 
cuts off the tips of the hair of the victim with silver scissors, 
also the finger nails, and extracts from the nostril a little 
blood caught in a bamboo tube, and offers these to the 
Men. The murderer, who is called u nongshohnoh, literally 
* the beater/ before he sets out on his unholy mission, 
drinks a special kind of liquor called, ka 'iad tang-shi-snem 
(literally, liquor which has been kept for a year). This 
liquor, it is thought, gives the murderer courage, and the 
power of selecting suitable victims for the Men. The nong- 
shohnoh then sets out armed with a short club, with which 
to slay the victim, hence his name nongshohnoh, i.e. one who 
beats ; for it is forbidden to kill a victim on these occasions 
with any weapon made of iron, inasmuch as iron was the 
metal which proved fatal to the Men. He also takes the 
pair of silver scissors above mentioned, a silver lancet to 
pierce the inside of the nostrils of the deceased, and a small 
bamboo or cylinder to receive the blood drawn therefrom. The 
nongshohnoh also provides himself with rice called ' u 'khaw 
tyndep* i.e. rice mixed with turmeric after certain incantations 
have taken place. The murderer throws a little of this rice 
over his intended victim, the effect of which is to stupefy the 
latter, who then falls an easy prey to the nongshohnoh. It is 
not, however, always possible to kill the victim outright for 


various reasons, and then the nongshohnoh resorts to the 
following subterfuge : He cuts off a little of the hair, or the 
hem of the garment, of a victim, and offers these up to the 
Men. The effect of cutting off the hair or the hem of the 
garment of a person by a nongshohnoh to offer up to the thlen, 
is disastrous to the unfortunate victim, who soon falls ill, and 
gradually wastes away and dies. The nongshohnoh also some- 
times contents himself with merely throwing stones at the 
victim, or with knocking at the door of his house at night, 
and then returns home, and, after invoking the thlen, 
informs the master that he has tried his best to secure him a 
prey, but has been unsuccessful. This is thought to appease 
the thlen for a time, but the demon does not remain inactive 
long, and soon manifests his displeasure for the failure of his 
keeper to supply him with human blood, by causing one of the 
latter's family to fall sick. The thlen has the power of re- 
ducing himself to the size of a thread, which renders it con- 
venient for the nong-ri thlen, or thlen keeper, to place him for 
safety in an earthen pot, or in a basket which is kept in some 
secure place in the house. When the time for making an 
offering to the thlen comes, an hour is selected, generally at 
dead of night, costly cloths are spread on the floor of the 
house of the thlen keeper, all the doors are opened, and a 
brass plate is laid on the ground in which is deposited the 
blood, or the hair, or a piece of the cloth of the victim. All 
the family then gathers round, and an elderly member com- 
mences to beat a small drum, and invokes the thlen, saying, 
' ko kni ko kpa (oh, maternal uncle, father), come out, here is 
some food for you ; we have done everything we could to 
satisfy you, and now we have been successful ; give us thy 
blessing, that we may attain health and prosperity/ The 
thlen then crawls out from its hiding-place and commences to 
expand, and when it has attained its full serpent shape, it 
comes near the plate and remains expectant. The spirit of 
the victim then appears, and stands on the plate, laughing. 
The thlen begins to swallow the figure, commencing at its feet, 
the victim laughing the while. By degrees the whole figure 
is disposed of by the boa constrictor. If the spirit be that 
of a person from whom the hair, or a piece of his or her cloth, 


has been cut, directly the Men has swallowed the spirit, the 
person expires. Many families in these hills are known, or 
suspected, to be keepers of a Men, and are dreaded or 
avoided in consequence. This superstition is deep-rooted 
amongst these people, and even nowadays, in places like 
Shillong or Cherrapunji, Khasis are afraid to walk alone after 
dark, for fear of being attacked by a nongshohnoh. In order 
to drive away the thlen from a house or family all the money, 
ornaments, and property of that house or family must be 
thrown away, as is the case with persons possessed by the 
demon Ka Taroh, in the Jaintia Hills. None dare touch any 
of the property, for fear that the Men should follow it. It 
is believed that a Men can never enter the Siem's or Chiefs 
clan, or the Siem's house ; it follows, therefore, that the pro- 
perty of the Men keeper can be appropriated by the Siem. 
A Mohammedan servant, not long ago in Shillong, fell a victim 
to the charms of a Khasi girl, and went to live with her. He 
told the following story to one of his fellow-servants, which 
may be set down here to show that the Men superstition is 
by no means dying out. In the course of his married life he 
came to know that the mother of his Khasi wife kept in the 
house what he called a bhut (devil). He asked his wife many, 
many times to allow him to see the bhut, but she was obdu- 
rate; after a long time, however, and after extracting many 
promises from him not to tell, she confided to him the secret 
and took him to the corner of the house, and showed him a 
little box in which was coiled a tiny snake, like the hair 
spring of a watch. She passed her hands over it, and it grew 
in size, till at last it became a huge cobra, with hood erected. 
The husband, terrified, begged his wife to lay the spirit. She 
passed her hands down its body, and it gradually shrank within 
its box/ 1 

It may be stated that the greater number of the Khasis, 
especially in certain Siemships, viz. Cherra, Nongkrem, and 
Mylliem, still regard the Men, and the persons who are thought 
to keep thlens, with the very greatest awe, and that they will not 
utter even the names of the latter for fear some ill may befall 
them. The superstition is probably of very ancient origin, and 
it is possible that the Khasi sacrifices to the thlen demon may 


be connected with the primaeval serpent-worship which 
characterised the Cambodians, which Forbes says was " un- 
doubtedly the earliest religion of the Mons." But it must be 
remembered that snake-worship is of very ancient origin, not 
only in Further India, but also in the nearer peninsula, where 
the serpent race or Nagas, who may have given their name to 
the town of Nagpur, were long held in superstitious reverence. 
Mr. Gait, in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, vol. i. 
of 1898, gives some account of the human sacrifices of the 
Jaintias or Syntengs. He writes as follows : 

" It appears that human sacrifices were offered annually on 
the Sandhi day in the monfch of Ashwin (Sukla paksha) at the 
sacred pitha, in the Faljur pargana. They were also occasion- 
ally offered at the shrine of Jainteswari, at Nijpat, i.e. at 
Jaintiapur, the capital of the country. As stated in the Haft 
Iqlim to have been the case in Koch Behar, so also in Jaintia, 
persons frequently voluntarily came forward as victims. This 
they generally did by appearing before the Raja on the last 
day of Shravan, and declaring that the goddess had called 
them. After due inquiry, if the would-be victim, or Bhoge 
Jchaora, were deemed suitable, it was customary for the Raja to 
present him with a golden anklet, and to give him permission 
to live as he chose, and to do whatever he pleased, compensation 
for any damage done by him being paid from the royal 
treasury. But this enjoyment of these privileges was very 
short. On the Navami day of the Durga Puja, the Bhoge 
khaora, after bathing and purifying himself, was dressed in 
new attire, daubed with red sandal-wood and vermilion, and 
bedecked with garlands. Thus arrayed, the victim sat on a 
raised dais in front of the goddess, and spent some time in 
meditation (japa), and in uttering mantras. Having done this 
he made a sign with his finger, and the executioner, after 
uttering the usual sacrificial mantras, cut off his head, which 
was placed before the goddess on a golden plate. The lungs 
were cooked and eaten by such Kandra Yogis as were present, 
and it is said that the royal family partook of a small quantity 
of rice cooked in the blood of the victim. The ceremony was 
usually witnessed by large crowds of spectators from all parts 
of the Jaintia parganas. 


" Sometimes the supply of voluntary victims fell short, or 
victims were needed for some special sacrifice promised in the 
event of some desired occurrence, such as the birth of a son, 
coming to pass. On such occasions, emissaries were sent to 
kidnap strangers from outside the Jaintia Eaj, and it was this 
practice that eventually led to the annexation of the country 
by the British. In 1821, an attempt was made to kidnap 
a native of Sylhet proper, and while the agents employed were 
punished, the Raja was warned not to allow such an atrocity 
to occur again. Eleven years later, however, four British 
subjects were kidnapped in the Nowgong district, and taken to 
Jaintia. Three of them were actually sacrificed, but the fourth 
escaped, and reported the matter to the authorities. The Raja 
of Jaintia was called on to deliver up the culprits, but he 
failed to do so, and his dominions were in consequence annexed 
in 1835." 

There seems to be an idea generally prevalent that the Raja 
of Jaintia, owing to his conversion to Hinduism, and especially 
owing to his having become a devotee of the goddess Kali, took 
to sacrificing human victims ; but I find that human victims 
were formerly sacrificed by the Jaintias to the Kopili River, 
which the Jaintias worshipped as a goddess. Two persons 
were sacrificed every year to the Kopili in the months 
U' naiwing and IT nai prah (November and December). They 
were first taken to the hat Mawshai, or Shang-pung market, 
where they were allowed to take any eatables they wished. 
Then they were conducted to Sumer, and thence to Ka leu 
Ksih, where a stone on the bank of a small river which falls 
into the Kopili is pointed out as having been the place where 
the victims were sacrificed to the Kopili river goddess. Others 
say that the sacrificial stone was situated on the bank of the 
Kopili River itself. A special clan in the Raliang doloiship 
used to carry out the executions. It seems probable that the 
practice of sacrificing human victims in Jaintia was of long 
standing, and was originally unconnected with Hinduism, 
although when the Royal family became converts to Hinduism, 
the goddess Kali may easily have taken the place of the Kopili 
River goddess. Many of the Syntengs regard the River Kopili 
to this day with superstitious reverence. Some of these people 


will not cross the river at all, others can do so after having per- 
formed a sacrifice with goats and fowls. Any traveller who 
wishes to cross the river must leave behind him the rice which 
he has taken for the journey, and any other food supplies he 
may have brought with him. This superstition often results in 
serious inconvenience to travellers between the Jaintia Hills 
and North Cachar, unless they have arranged for another 
batch of coolies to meet them on the Cachar side of the River 
Kopili, for the Synteng coolies throw down their loads at the 
river side, and nothing will induce them to cross the river. 
The Kopili is propitiated by pujas in many parts of the Jaintia 
Hills, and at Nartiang a tank where sacrifices are regularly 
performed is called Ka Umkoi Kopili. 



THE Khasis have a vague belief in a God the Creator, U Blei 
Nong-thaw, although this deity, owing, no doubt, to the 
influences of the matriarchate, is frequently given the attribute 
of the feminine genderAcf. Ka lei Synshar. The Khasis 
cannot, however, be said to worship the Supreme God, although 
it is true that they sometimes invoke him when sacrificing and 
in times of trouble. ^The religion of the Khasis may be 
described as animism or spirit-worship, or rather, the pro- 
pitiation of spirits both good and evil on certain occasions, 
principally in times of trouble. ) The propitiation of these 
spirits is carried out either by priests (lyngdohs), or by old men 
well versed in the arts of necromancy, and as the lyngdoh or wise 
man deals with good as well as evil spirits, and, as often as not 
with the good spirits of ancestors, the propitiation of these 
spirits may be said to partake of the nature of Shamanism. A 
very prominent feature of the Khasi beliefs is the propitiation 
of ancestors ; but this will be described separately. There is a 
vague belief amongst the Khasi of a future state. It is 
believed that the spirits of the dead, whose funeral ceremonies 
have been duly performed, go to the house or garden of God, 
where there are groves of betel-nut trees; hence the ex- 
pression for the departed, ula lam kwai ha iing u Uei (he who is 
eating betel-nut in God's house), the idea of supreme happiness 
to the Khasi being to eat betel-nut uninterruptedly. The 
spirits of those whose funeral ceremonies have not been duly 
performed are believed to take the forms of animals, birds, or 


106 THE KHASIS iv 

insects, and to roam on this earth ; but this idea of transmigration 
of souls has been probably borrowed from the Hindus. Bivar 
writes that although the ideas of a Godhead are not clearly 
grasped, yet a supreme creator is acknowledged, and the 
following is the tradition relating to the creation of man. 
" God in the beginning having created man, placed him on -the 
earth, but on returning to look at him, found he had been 
destroyed by the evil spirit. This happened a second time, 
whereupon the Deity created first a dog, then a man ; and the dog 
who kept watch, prevented the devil from destroying the man, 
and the work of the Deity was thus preserved." (The Khasis, 
apparently, do not believe in punishment after death, at least, 
there is no idea of hell, although the spirits of those who have 
died under the ban of sang remain uneasy, being obliged to 
wander about the earth in different forms^as noted above. The 
spirits worshipped by the Khasis are many in number, those of 
the Syntengs being specially numerous. The particular spirit 
to be propitiated is ascertained by egg-breaking. The offering 
acceptable to the spirit is similarly ascertained and is 
then made. If the particular sacrifice does not produce 
the result desired, a fowl is sacrificed ; the entrails being 
then examined, an augury is drawn, and the sacrifice begins 
afresh. As the process of egg-breaking is believed to be 
peculiar 1 to the Khasis amongst the Assam hill tribes, a 
separate description of it is given in the Appendix. It should 
be remarked that the Khasis never symbolise their gods by means 
of images, their worship being offered to the spirit only. The 
following are some of the principal spirits worshipped by the 
Khasis and Syntengs, omitting the spirits of deceased 
ancestors such as Ka lawbei, u Thawlang, and u Suidnia, 
which will be described under the heading of ancestor- 

TTlei muluk the god of the State, who is propitiated yearly 
by the sacrifice of a goat and a cock. 

Ulei umtong the god of water, used for drinking and 
cooking purposes. This god is similarly propitiated once a 
year,' so that the water supply may remain pure. 

1 Sir Charles Lyall has pointed out that the Mikirs possess this custom ; it 
is probably borrowed from the Khasis. 


U lei longspah the god of wealth. This god is propitiated 
with a view to obtaining increased prosperity. 

U Eyngkew or u Basa shnong, is the tutelary deity of the 
village. This godling is propitiated by sacrifices whenever 
they are thought to be necessary. 

U Phan u kyrpad is a similar godling to the above. 

Then follows a list of minor deities, or, rather, evil spirits, 
e.g. Ka Rih, the malarial fever devil ; ka Khlam, the demon of 
cholera ; lea Duba, the fever devil which is said to haunt the 
neighbourhood of Theriaghat. 

Bivar says " the Khasi religion may be thus briefly defined as 
forms used to cure diseases and to avert misfortunes, by ascer- 
taining the name of the demon, as the author of the evil, and 
the kind of sacrifice necessary to appease it." We may accept 
this description as substantially correct. In the Jaintia Hills, 
there is a peculiar superstition regarding a she devil, called 
" ka Taroh" which is supposed to cause delirium in cases 
of fever. When such cases occur, it is believed that " ka Taroh " 
has caused them, and inquiries are made by means of breaking 
eggs to find out in whose person the demon has obtained 
a lodgment ; or sometimes the sick person is asked to reveal this. 
When in either of these ways the name of the person possessed 
by " ka Taroh " is known, the sick person is taken to the house 
of the possessed, and ashes and bits of broken pots are cast into 
the enclosure, after which, if the sick person recovers, the party 
indicated is denounced as possessed by the demon ; but if the 
patient dies, it is concluded that the person possessed has not 
been properly ascertained. If people are satisfied that some 
one is really possessed, they denounce the person, who is then 
out-casted. The only way for him to regain his position 
is to exorcise the demon by divesting himself of all his 
property. He pulls down his house, burns the materials, his 
clothes, and all his other worldly goods. Lands, flocks, and 
herds are sold, the money realised by the sale being thrown 
away: No one dares touch this money, for fear he should 
become possessed by ka Taroh. It will be observed that, as 
in the case of the Men, the demon is believed to follow the 

Mr. Jenkins, in his interesting little work on "Life and 

io8 THE KHASIS iv 

Work in Khasia," gives a slightly different account of the 
superstition, in that he states that it is the sick person who 
is possessed by lea Tar oh. The above belief is perhaps a 
Synteng development of the Khasi Men superstition. In 
the Jaintia Hills " the small-pox " is believed to be a goddess, 
and is reverenced accordingly. Syntengs regard it as an 
honour to have had small-pox, calling the marks left by the 
disease the u kiss of the goddess " ; the more violent the attack 
and the deeper the marks, the more highly honoured is the per- 
son affected. Mr. Jenkins says, " When the goddess has entered 
a house, and smitten any person or persons with this disease, 
a trough of clean water is placed outside the door, in order that 
every one before entering may wash their feet therein, the 
house being considered sacred." Mr. Rita mentions cases of 
women washing their hair in water used by a small-pox patient, 
in order that they may contract the disease, and women have 
been known actually to bring their little children into the 
house of a small-pox patient, in order that they may become 
infected and thus receive the kiss of the goddess. It is 
possible that the Syntengs, who were for some time under 
Hindu influences, may in their ignorance have adopted this 
degraded form of worship of the Hindu goddess, " Sitala Devi," 
who is adored as a divine mother under different names by 
Hindus all over India : cf. her name mari-amman, or mother of 
death, in the South of India, and the name Ai, mother, of the 

In the Khasi Hills the god of small-pox is known under the 
name of u Siem niang thylliew. He is not, however, appeased 
in any way, the people calling on two other spirits, Thynrei 
and Sapa, to whom a fowl or a goat is offered. 

This section cannot be closed without some reference to the 
household gods of the Syntengs. The legend is that in ancient 
times there came a woman " from the end of heaven to the 
borders of the country of u Truh " (the country of the plains 
people at a distance from the foot of the Khasi and Jaintia 
Hills). The name of the woman was Ka Taben, and she was 
accompanied by her children. She offered herself to u Dkhar> 
the plains man, as a household goddess, but he rejected her. 
She then went to the Khasis, who were cultivating their fields, 


and offered to help them with their cultivation. The Khasis 
also refused her, saying they were capable of managing their 
own cultivation, and at the same time told her to go to the 
country of the Bhois and Syntengs, i.e. the Jaintia Hills. 
Acting on this advice, she went to the village of Nongphyllud 
in the Jaintia Hills, where the people again turned a deaf ear 
to her. She proceeded to Mulagula village in Jaintia, at the 
foot of the Jaintia Hills, and ascended from thence to Rymbai, 
where she met a man who conducted her to the house of the 
Siem, who consented that she and her children should live with 
him. Ka Taben then apportioned to her children various 
duties in the house of the Siem as follows : Ka Rasong was to 
look after the young unmarried folk, and was to supervise 
their daily labour and to prosper their trading operations at 
the markets. Next Ka Rasong was given a place at the 
foot of the king post, trai rishot, and her duty was to befriend 
young men in battle. Then came Ka Longkhuinruid, alias ka 
Thdb-bulong, who said, " There are no more rooms in the 
house for my occupation, so I will go and live in the forest, 
and him who turns not his coat when I meet him I will make 
mad." Finally came U Lamsymphud, who elected to live 
with his youngest sister inside the house. 

There are special sacrifices offered to these household deities. 
The leaves of the suing, or Khasi oak, are wrapped round the 
post of the house, and a fowl is sacrificed and other formalities 
are observed which it would be tedious to describe in detail. 
The legend of the arrival of Ka Taben with her children in the 
Synteng country from a distant clime is interesting in that it 
perhaps indicates the possibility of the migration of these 
people, i.e. the Syntengs, in ancient times from some distant 
place to their present abode. 


/The Khasis not only revere the memories of deceased an- 
cestors, but they adore them by means of offerings, which are 
sometimes periodical, and sometimes made when thought neces- 
sary, as in times of troubled These offerings take the shape of 
articles of food which are theoretically partaken of by the shades 


of the deceased ancestors, the idea of making such offerings 
being very similar to that of the Hindus when they offer the 
"pinda" or cake, to nine generations of ancestors, i.e. to 
propitiate the shades of the departed, and to obtain their help 
thereby. U Hormu Eai Diengdoh writes that, " the real 
religious demand" amongst the Khasis is the ai lam, or 
giving of food to the spirits of deceased ancestors, in order that 
the latter may aid the living members of the clan with their 
help, and bless them. To honour dead ancestors is the duty of 
every Khasi, and he who wilfully neglects this duty, it is 
believed, will neither receive their help, nor be defended from 
the influence of the numerous spirits of evil in which the 
Khasis believe. Amongst the Syntengs, a few days after 
depositing the bones in the ancestral tomb, the ceremony of 
feeding the spirits of the dead is performed. At this ceremony 
there are some families which give two pigs for each person of 
the family who is dead, and there are some who give one. 
The pigs are taken to the iing-seng, or puja house of the clan. 
Presumably, pigs are usually offered to the shades only of 
those members of the family whose remains have been recently 
deposited in the clan cromlech. In the chapter dealing 
with memorial stones the reader will notice how many of 
them are erected to the memory of deceased ancestors, and 
how they bear the names of such ancestors, e.g. Ka lawbei 
(the first grandmother), U Suidnia, or U kni rangbah (the first 
maternal uncle). It was the custom in former days to make 
offerings of food upon the flat table-stones to the spirits of the 
deceased ancestors, and this is still the case in places in the 
interior of the district. This practice, however, may be said 
to be largely dying out, it being commonly the custom now to 
make the offerings in the house, either annually, or at times 
when it is thought necessary to invoke the aid of the departed. 
Such acts of devotion may well be said to partake of the 
nature of worship. As has been the case in other countries, 
and amongst other people, it is possible that the (Khasi gods of 
to-day are merely the spirits of glorified deceased ancestors 
transfigured)) as has happened with some of the gods of the 
Shinto pantheon of Japan. It may be interesting to note that 
the ancient Shinto cult of Japan possesses some features in 


common with the ancestor- worship of the Khasis. Take the 
funeral ceremonies. With both people we find the dead laid 
out in the house, food placed before the corpse, and the funeral 
ceremonies taking place, accompanied by music and dancing. 
Mr. Lafcadio Hearn, in an interesting book on Japan, writes 
" that in ancient times the Japanese performed ceremonies at 
regular intervals at the tombs of deceased members of the 
family, and food and drink were then served to the spirits " ; 
this is exactly what the Khasis used to do at their cenotaphs. 
This, apparently, was the practice in Japan before the " spirit 
tablet " had been introduced from China, when the worship of 
the ancestors was transferred from the tomb to the home. 
We have an exactly similar instance of evolution amongst the 
Khasis of the present day, i.e. the transfer of the ancestor cult 
from the flat table-stones erected in honour of deceased 
ancestors to the home. Last, but not least, is the idea common 
to both people that no family or clan can prosper which does 
not duly perform the worship of deceased ancestors ; this, as 
Hearn puts it, is " the fundamental idea underlying every per- 
sistent ancestor- worship, i.e. that the welfare of the living 
depends upon the welfare of the dead." The " Khasi Mynta," 
in an interesting article, notes some further points of resem- 
blance between the methods of ancestor-worship adopted by the 
two people. The following instances may be quoted. Amongst 
the Japanese the spirits of those who fall in battle are said to 
help their fellow-warriors who are still fighting. The " Khasi 
Mynta " quotes a similar belief as having existed amongst the 
Khasis in former days. The remains of Japanese warriors who 
die in battle are said to be reverently taken to the warrior's 
home at the first opportunity. The Khasis do likewise, the 
clothing in default of the ashes of Khasi transport coolies, who 
were employed on military expeditions on the North-Eastern 
Frontier, having been carried home by the survivors to present 
to the dead men's relations, who then performed the cere- 
monies prescribed by custom for those who have died violent 
or unnatural deaths. Of all deceased ancestors the Khasis 
revere Ka lawbei the most, the word lawbei being made up of 
y iaw, short for kiaw (grandmother), and bei, mother. Ka lawbei 
is the primeval ancestress of the clan. She is to the Khasis 

112 THE KHASIS iv 

what the "tribal mother" was to old Celtic and Teutonic 
genealogists, and we have an interesting parallel to the rever- 
ence of the Khasis for Ka lawbei in the Celtic goddess Brigit, 
the tribal mother of the Brigantes. Later on, like Ka lawbei, 
she was canonised, and became St. Bridget. 1 

The greater number of the flat table-stones we see in 'front 
of the standing monoliths in these hills are erected in honour 
of Ka lawbei. In former times it was the custom to offer 
food~tO tier on these stones. In cases of family quarrels, 
or dissensions amongst the members of the same clan, which 
it is desired to bring to a peaceful settlement, it is customary 
to perform a sacrifice to the first mother, " Ka lawbei" They 
first of all take an augury by breaking eggs, and if it 
appears from the broken egg-shells that Ka lawbei is 
offended, they offer to her a cotton cloth, and sacrifice a hen. 
On these occasions, incantations are muttered, and a small 
drum, called, " Ka 'sing ding dong" is beaten. It is not 
unlikely that the Khasi household deities, Ka lei iing and 
Ka ksaw ka jirngam, to whom pujas are offered for the welfare 
of the house, are also Ka lawbei in disguise. Notwithstanding 
the strong influence of the matriarchate, we find that U Thaw- 
lang y the first father and the husband of Ka lawbei, is also 
revered. To him on occasions of domestic trouble a cock is 
sacrificed, and a jymphong, or sleeveless coat, is offered. This 
puja is called kaba tap Thawlang, i.e. covering the grandfather. 
The following incantation to U Thawlang is then chanted : 
" Oh, father Thawlang, who hast enabled me to be born, who 
hast given me my stature and my life, I have wronged thee ; 
oh father, be not offended, for I have given thee a pledge 
and a sign, i.e. a red and white sleeveless coat. Do not deliver 
me into the power of (the goddess of) illness ; I have offered 
thee the propitiatory cock that thou mayest carry me in thine 
arms, and that I may be aware of thee, my father Thawlang." 
We see clearly from the above prayer that the Khasi idea is 
that the spirit of the deceased male ancestor is capable of 
being in a position to help his descendant in times of trouble. 
The same thought underlies the extreme reverence with which 
Ka lawbei is regarded. Thus we see a striking point of 
1 Karl Pearson's essay on " mother age civilisation." 


resemblance between the Khasi ancestor-worship and th$ 
ancient Shinto cult of Japan, as described by Mr. Lafcadio 
Hearn. U Suid-Nia, or u Kni Rawgbah, the first maternal 
uncle, i.e. the elder brother of Ka lawbei, is also much revered. 
It will also be noticed under the heading of memorial stones 
that the great central upright monolith of the mdwbynna, or 
memorial stones, is erected in his honour. The influence of 
the kni, or mother's elder brother, in the Khasi family is very 
great, for it is he who is the manager on behalf of the mother, 
his position in the Khasi family being very similar to that of 
the karta in the Hindu joint family. It is on this account 
that he is so much revered, and is honoured with a stone 
which is larger than the other up-right memorial stones after 
death. It will be seen in the article dealing with " the disposal 
of the dead " that at Cherra, on the occasion of the bestowal of 
the ashes in the ossuary of the clan, a part of the attendant 
ceremonies consists of the preparation of two effigies called 
Ka Puron and U Tyngshop, intended to represent Ka lawbei 
(the first mother) and U Suid-Nia (the first maternal uncle). 
The W&rs of Nongjri have a custom peculiar to themselves. 
They erect small thatched houses in their compounds, which 
they call iing ksuid. When they worship their ancestors they 
deposit offerings of food in these houses, the idea being that 
the ancestors will feed on the offerings. These W&rs do not 
erect memorial stones, nor do they collect the ashes of the clan 
in a common sepulchre; they deposit the ashes in circular 
cineraria, each family, or iing, possessing one. It should 
further be noted with reference to the Khasi custom of ai bam, 
or giving food to the spirits of deceased ancestors, that Dr. 
Frazer, in his "Golden Bough/' has mentioned numerous 
instances of first fruits being offered to the spirits of deceased 
ancestors by the tribes inhabiting the Malay Archipelago. 
(See pages 462-463 of the " Golden Bough "). Some other 
points of similarity in customs have already been noticed 
between the Khasis and certain Malay tribes. 


In the Khasi Hills, especially on the southern side, there are 
numerous rivers, sometimes of considerable size, which find 


<their way to the Sylhet plains through very deep valleys, the 
rivers flowing through narrow channels flanked by beetling 
cliffs which rise to considerable altitudes. The scenery in the 
neighbourhood of these beautiful rivers is of the most romantic 
description, and the traveller might imagine himself in Switzer- 
land were it not for the absence of the snowy ranges. Of such 
a description is the scenery on the banks of the river Kenchi- 
yong, the JddukAtd l or Punatit of the plains. It is in the bed 
of the river, a few miles below Rilang, that there is the 
curiously-arched cavity in the rock which resembles an up- 
turned boat, which the Khasis call Ka lieng blei (the god's 
boat), and the plains people Basbanya's ship. Near to this, on 
the opposite side of the river, there is a rock bearing a Persian 
inscription, but so defaced by the action of the water as to be 
impossible to decipher. Like other inhabitants of mountainous 
countries, the Khasis reverence the spirits of fell and fall, and 
propitiate them with offerings at stated times. A brief descrip- 
tion of the ceremonies which are performed at Rilang, on the 
occasion when the annual fishing in the river Punatit takes 
place, may be of interest. The three Siems of Nongstoin, 
Langrin, and Nobosohpoh each sacrifice a goat to Ka Uei sam 
um (the goddess of the river) before the boatmen can cast in 
their nets. In former times they say the passage up the river 
was obstructed by the goddess, who took the form of an 
immense crocodile; but she was propitiated by the gift of 
a goat, and the boatmen were then allowed to pass up the 
river in their boats. Hence it became necessary for the owners 
of the fishery to sacrifice annually a goat each to the goddess. 
At the time of my visit each Siem's party erected an altar in 
the bed of the river, in the midst of which a bough of the 
Khasi oak (dieng suing) was planted. The goats were then 
decapitated, it being considered an essential that the head 
should be severed with one blow. As soon as the head was cut 
off there was a rush on the part of the sacrificers to see in 
which direction the head faced. If the head faced towards the 
north or west it was considered an evil omen ; if it faced towards 
the south or east, a good omen. The east is a lucky quarter 
amongst the Assamese also. The people ended up the proceed- 
1 Lit. : Cut by magic. 


ings by giving a long-drawn-out, deep-toned chant, or kynhoi. 
Immediately after the ceremony was concluded hundreds of 
boats shot out from the numerous creeks, where they had been 
lying, and fished the river all night, the result being an 
immense haul, to the delight of the Lynngams, who were seen 
next morning roasting the fish whole on bamboo stakes, after 
which they consumed them, the entrails being eaten with great 
gusto. Such is the worship of the goddess of the Punatit. 

Similar pujas take place among the people of Wr-ding (the 
valley of fire) before they fish in the Khai-mara river and else- 
where in the Khasi Hills. In the Jaintia Hills there is the 
Synteng-worship of the Kopili River, which used to be accom- 
panied by human sacrifices, as has been mentioned above. 
The Myntang River, a tributary of the Kopili, must also be 
annually appeased by the sacrifice of a he-goat. Numerous 
hills also are worshipped, or rather the spirits which are said 
to inhabit them. One of the best known hill godlings is the 
deity who is thought to inhabit the little wood close to the 
summit of the Shillong Peak. This deity is said to have been 
discovered by a man named " U Shillong," who gave his name to 
the Shillong Peak, and indirectly to our beautiful hill station of 
that name. The Siems of Mylliem and Nongkrem reverence 
IT lei Shillong, and there are certain clans who perform periodi- 
cal sacrifices to this god. Probably the origin of the super- 
stitious reverence with which TJ'lei Shillong is held by the 
Siems of Nongkrem and Mylliem is that their fabled ancestress 
" Ka Pah Syntiew," of whom an account will be found in the 
folk-lore section, took her origin from a rock not far from the 
Shillong Peak in the Nongkrem direction. 

Rableng Hill, which is within full view of the Shillong Peak 
in an easterly direction, is also said to be the abode of a minor 
god who is periodically propitiated by the members of the 
M&wthoh clan of the Khyrim State with a he-goat and a cock. 
Apparently no special puja is performed to U Kyllang (the 
Kyllang Rock) nowadays. 

The picturesque hill of Symper, which rises abruptly from 
the plain in the Siemship of Maharam, is visible for many miles. 
It is in shape not unlike the Kyllang. Symper is said to be 
the abode of a god called " U Symper." There is a folk-tale 


that Kyllang and Symper fought a great battle, and that 
the numerous holes in the rocks at the base of the Symper 
hill are evidences of their strife. At the base of Symper there 
is a great cave, where many cattle find shelter in rainy weather. 
The people of Mawsynram propitiate the god of Symper in 
cases of sickness by sacrificing a he-goat or a bull Symper 
like ITlei Shillong, is one of the minor deities of the 

Close to Shangpung, in the Jaintia Hills, there is a small hill 
called "u Itim pyddieng Uai lyngdoh" where sacrifices are 
offered on an altar at seed time and when the corn comes into 
ear. This altar used to be overshadowed by a large oak tree. 
The tree is now dead. 

The Wdrs of Nongjri worship " u'lei lyngdoh" the tutelary 
deity of the village, under the spreading roots of a large rubber 
tree which gives its name to this village Nongjri. This village 
worship is performed by a village priest (lyngdoh) at stated 
intervals, or whenever it is considered necessary. There are 
numerous other instances of hills and rivers being regarded 
as the abode of godlings, but those quoted above are sufficient 
for purposes of illustration. 


The Khasis, as has been explained already, worship numerous 
gods and goddesses. These gods and goddesses are supposed to 
exercise good or evil influence over human beings according 
to whether they are propitiated with sacrifices or not. They 
are even supposed to possess the power of life and death, 
over men and women, subject to the control of u Blei 
Nongthdw, God the Creator. Thus illness, for example, is 
thought to be caused by one or more of the spirits on 
account of some act or omission, and health can only be 
restored by the due propitiation of the offended spirits. 
In order to ascertain which is the offended spirit, a system 
of divination by means of cowries, breaking eggs, or 
examining the entrails of animals and birds, was instituted. 
The Khasi method of obtaining auguries by examining the 
viscera of animals and birds may be compared with that of 


the Roman haruspex. Some description of these modes of 
divination has been given at the end of this chapter. The 
Khasi religion has been described by Bivar as " demon worship 
or a jumble of enchantments muttered by priests who are 
sorcerers/' But even a religion which is thus unflatteringly 
described is based on the cardinal doctrines of sin and sacrifice 
for sin. Tradition amongst the Khasis states that in the begin- 
ning (mynnyngkong ka sngi) there was no sin, heaven and earth 
were near each other, and man had direct intercourse with 
God. How man fell into sin is not stated, but it is certain 
that he did fall. Experts at " egg healing " never forget to 
repeat the formula " nga bridw nga la pop " (I man have 
sinned). The cock then appears as a mediator between God 
and man. The cock is styled " u khun ka blei uba kit ryndang 
ba shah ryndang na ka bynta jong nga u britfw," i.e. the son of 
god who lays down his neck (life) for me man. The use of the 
feminine ka blei is no doubt due to matriarchal influences. 
There is another prayer in which the Khasis say, " ap jutang 
me u blei ieng rangbah me u bridw " (oh god do not forget the 
covenant, arise oh man). The idea is that man has fallen into 
sins of omission and commission (ka pop, ka lait ka let) but 
that God is nevertheless expected to spare him, and to accept a 
substitute for him according to the covenant (jutang). By this 
covenant God is supposed to have accepted in exchange the cock 
as a substitute for man. How the cock came to occupy such an 
important position, tradition is vague and self-conflicting. The 
fact remains that the covenant of the cock is the foundation 
of the Khasi religion. It is of interest to mention that 
amongst the Ahoms the tradition is that Khunlung and 
Khunl&i brought down from heaven the kdi-chdn-mung, 1 or pair 
of heavenly fowls, and that to this day the sacrifice of the 
fowl is considered by the Deodhais, or priest-soothsayers of the 
Ahoms, a most important feature of the ancient Ahom ritual. 
But amongst the Ahoms there is a difference that auguries 
are obtained, not from the entrails, but by examining the legs 
of the fowls. The Ahoms are Shans belonging to the Tai branch 
of the Indo-Chinese group. 

1 In Ahom kdi=towl t chdn - beautiful, mung= country. Therefore Kdi- 
chdn-mung=iowl of a beautiful country (heaven). 

ii8 THE KHASIS iv 

The covenant of the cock as thus explained shows the im- 
portance of this sacrifice to the Khasis. The large intestine of 
a fowl has two pea-like protuberances, one close to the other. 
One is symbolically called u Uei or god, and the other is styled 
u bridw or man ; they are connected by a thin membrane. 
Directly the bird has been disembowelled the sacrificer throws 
a few grains of rice on the entrails and then watches their 
convulsive movements. If the portion of the entrail called u 
Uei moves towards that portion which represents man, it is 
considered proof positive that the god has heard the prayer 
of the sacrificer, but if the movement proceeds in the opposite 
direction, then the reverse is the case and the omen is bad. If 
the entrails are full and healthy, having no spots (brat), or 
blood marks (thung), and if the membrane between the two 
protuberances has not been fractured, these are favourable 
signs. If the intestines are empty, wrinkled, or spotted, and 
the membrane mentioned above is fractured, these are bad 
signs. Auguries also are drawn by examining the livers, the 
lungs and spleens and gall bladders of pigs, goats, and cattle. 
If the liver of a pig is healthy and without spot, the augury is 
good ; if the reverse, it is bad. The spleen must not be unduly 
distended, otherwise the omen is unfavourable and the gall 
bladder must not be over full. Invocations to deduce omens 
from the appearance of the entrails are quoted on page 11 of 
Col. Bivar's Report. From the first invocation quoted by 
him it appears that the method of drawing the augury from 
the fowl differs slightly in detail from that which has been 
described to me by certain Khasis, but both descriptions agree 
in the main, and the slight dissimilarity in detail may be due 
to the methods* of obtaining auguries varying slightly in 
different localities. Divination by breaking eggs and by other 
means, although not strictly sacrifice with the Khasis, partakes 
of the nature of a religious ceremony. Such divinations are of 
almost every-day occurrence in a Khasi house, and always 
precede sacrifices. The Khasis, moreover, do nothing of what 
.they consider to be of even the least importance without break- 
ing eggs. When a Khasi builds a new house, or before he pro- 
ceeds on a journey, he always breaks eggs to see whether the 
building or the journey will be lucky or not. The description 


of egg-breaking given by Shadwell in his account of the 
Khasis is not altogether correct. A detailed description of 
this method of divination will be found in Appendix C. 
The description can be depended upon, as it is the result of my 
personal observations of egg-breaking on several occasions. A 
board of the shape shown in the diagram (Appendix C) is 
placed on the ground, the egg-breaker's position being that 
indicated in the diagram. After the egg has been smeared 
with red earth, it is thrown violently down and the contents 
and the fragments of egg-shell fall on the board. Auguries are 
drawn from the positions of the fragments of shell on the 
board, and from the fact of their lying with their inner sides 
facing upwards or downwards. Another method of egg- 
breaking is for the diviner to wrap up the egg in a plantain 
leaf with the point uppermost, or merely to hold the egg in his 
hand in this position without wrapping it up, and then to press 
another egg down upon it. If the end of the egg so pressed 
breaks at once, this is a good sign, but if it remains unbroken, 
the egg has a god in it, and the omen is bad. 

A common method of divination is by means of the shanam, 
or lime-case. The diviner holds the lime-case by the end of 
its chain, and addresses the god. He then asks the lime-case 
a question, and if it swings, this is supposed to be an answer in 
the affirmative; if it does not move, this is a negative reply. 
This seems to be a very simple trick, for the diviner can impart 
movement to the lime-case by means of the hand. A similar 
way of consulting the oracle is by the bow, which is held in the 
hand by the middle of the string. A simple method of 
divining is by means of cowries or grains of rice. The diviner 
plunges his hand into a bag or basket after asking the god a 
question. If the number of cowries or grains of rice comes out 
odd, the omen is good ; if it comes out even, the reverse is the 
case. The Khasi word for consulting the omens is khan, and 
a diviner is called a nongkhan. Another method of obtaining 
omens is by dropping two leaves into a pool of water or on 
a stone, the position of the leaves as they fall, either right side 
uppermost or upside down, signifying good or evil as the case 
may be ; this is called khan-sla. 

120 THE KHASIS iv 


The Khasi priest is usually called Lyngdoh or langdoh ; he is 
always appointed from the lyngdoh clan. The etymology of the 
word lyngdoh is said by certain lyngdohs of the Khyrim State to 
be lang = together and doh = flesh. A lyngdoh, or langdoh, is 
one who collects sacrificial victims, i.e.' flesh for the purpose of 
sacrificing. It must be confessed, however, that this definition 
is doubtful, owing to the absence in the word lyngdoh of the 
prefix nong, which is the sign of the agent in Khasi. Besides 
lyngdohs there are persons called soh-blei or soh-sla, who may 
also be said to be priests. The Khasis, unlike the Hindus, have 
no purohit or priest to perform the family ceremonies. Such 
duties fall to the lot of the head of the family or clan, who 
carries them out generally through the agency of the kni or 
maternal uncle. Old Khasis are frequently well versed in the 
details of sacrifices, and in the art of obtaining auguries by 
examining the viscera of sacrificial victims. Apart from family 
and clan sacrifices, there are the sacrifices for the good of the 
State or community at large ; it is these sacrifices that it is the 
duty of the lyngdoh to perform. He may be said to be the priest 
of the communal religion, although he has certain duties in 
connection with offences committed against the social law of 
marriage, and with regard to the casting out of evil spirits from 
houses which may be thought to be infested with them. The 
lyngdohs of the Khasis may be likened to the Roman ponti- 
fices. In the different Khasi States there is, as a rule, more 
than one lyngdoh ; sometimes there is quite a number of such 
priests, as in Nongkrem, where there is a lyngdoh for each raj 
or division of the State. There are a few Khasi States where 
the priest altogether takes the place of the Siem, and rules the 
community with the help of his elders in addition to perform- 
ing the usual spiritual offices. The duties of lyngdohs, their 
methods of sacrificing, and the gods to whom they sacrifice, vary 
in the different Siemships, but there is one point in which we 
find agreement everywhere, i.e. that the lyngdoh must be 
assisted at the time of performing sacrifices by a female priestess, 
called ka soh-blei, ka soh-sla, or simply ka lyngdoh. This female 
collects all the puja articles and places them ready to the 


lyngdoh's hand at the time of sacrifice. He merely acts as her 
deputy when sacrificing. The female soh-blei is without doubt a 
survival of the time when, under the matriarchate, the priestess 
was the agent for the performance of all religious ceremonies. 
Another such survival is the High Priestess of Nongkrem, who 
still has many religious duties to perform ; not only so, but she 
is the actual head of the State in this Siemship, although she 
delegates her temporal powers to one of her sons or nephews, 
who thus becomes Siem. A similar survival of the ancient 
matriarchal religious system is the Siem sad, or priestess, at 
Mawsynram, who, on the appointment of a new Siem or chief, 
has to assist at certain sacrifices. Here we may compare Karl 
Pearson's remark, when dealing with matriarchal customs, that 
" according to the evidence of Roman historians, not only the 
seers but the sacrificers among the early Teutons were women." 
The duties of the lyngdohs, as regards communal worship, 
consist chiefly of sacrificing at times of epidemics of cholera, 
and such-like visitations of sickness (jing iap khlam). In 
the Khyrim State there is a goddess of each raj, or division, 
of the State, to whom sacrifices are offered on such occasions. 
To the goddess are sacrificed a goat and a hen, powdered rice 
(u kpu), and a gourd of fermented liquor ; the leaves of the 
dieng suing, or Khasi oak, are also used at this ceremony. The 
lyngdoh is assisted by a priestess called ka soh-sla, who is his 
mother, or his sister, or niece, or some other maternal relation. 
It is the duty of the priestess to prepare all the sacrificial 
articles, and without her assistance the sacrifice cannot take 
place. Sacrifices are also performed by the lyngdoh to u Lei 
Lyngdoh, alias u Ryngkew. This used to be the tutelary deity 
in times of war, but in less troublous times the Khasi lyngdoh 
sacrifices to him for success in tribal or State litigation. A pig 
and a cock, with the usual accessories, are sacrificed by the 
lyngdoh to this god. As in the case of sacrifices to Ka lei 
Eaj, the services of a priestess are indispensable. 

A lyngdoh is a lyngdoh for life. When a lyngdoh dies and 
his successor is appointed, certain rather elaborate ceremonies 
are observed in the Nongkrem raj of the Khyrim State. The 
funeral ceremonies of the old lyngdoh having been completed, 
the lyngdoh clan appoints his successor. The latter then, 


after performing his ablutions, proceeds, accompanied by the 
assembled members of the lyngdoh clan, to the top of the 
Shillong Peak. The lyngdoh and his clansmen advance along 
the road dancing, this dancing being carried on all the way 
from the lyngdoh's house to the Shillong Peak. All are clad 
in the distinctive Khasi dancing dress. Having reache'd the 
Peak, they pick the leaves of a tree called ka 'la phiak, which 
they spread on the ground. A goat and a cock are then 
sacrificed, the new lyngdoh acting as the sacrifices There are 
the usual accessories, including branches of the Khasi suing or 
oak. Nine portions (dykhof) are cut from different parts of the 
victims and are offered to the god of the Shillong Peak, U lei 
Shillong. The lyngdoh and his companions then perform 
obeisance three times to the god, and the lyngdoh walks back- 
wards some paces. The puja is then over, and they return 
dancing to the lyngdoh's house. On another day the lyngdoh 
performs a puja to u lei Lyngdoh, alias u Ramjah. Undoubtedly 
the most interesting feature of the ceremonies on these 
occasions is the dancing. This dancing is carried out by the 
lyngdoh and his companions armed with sword and shield, a fly- 
flap made of goat's hair (symphiah) being also sometimes held 
in one hand, a quiver of arrows being slung on the back, and 
a plume of black and white cock's feathers (u thuya) fixed 
in the turban. The dance is executed in a regular figure, the 
dancers advancing and retiring in an orderly and methodical 
manner, and finally clashing their swords together in mock 
combat. The dance of the present day is not unlikely the 
survival of a war dance of ancient times. The lyngdohs say 
they dance in honour of U lei Lyngdoh, to whom such dances 
are thought to be pleasing. The dance of the lyngdohs on these 
occasions may be compared with that of the Roman salii y who, in 
the month of March, performed a war dance in honour of Mars. 
The above and other similar sacrifices to the gods of the State 
or divisions of the State may be said to be the communal 
religious duties of the lyngdohs. The duties of lyngdohs with 
reference to private persons may now be mentioned. When it 
is found that any two people have made an incestuous marriage, 
that is to say a marriage within the exogamous group of the 
kur, or clan, the parties at fault are taken before the lyngdoh 


by their clansmen, who request him to sacrifice in order to 
ward off the injurious effects of the sang, or taboo, of such a 
connection from the kinsfolk. On this occasion a pig is 
sacrificed to u'lei lyngdoh and a goat to Jca lei long raj. The 
parties at fault are then outcasted. As mentioned in another 
place, the sin of incest admits of no expiation for the offenders 
themselves. In the Khyrim State, it is said by the lyngdohs 
themselves, although not by the Siem or the myntries, that 
they are the reversionary legatees of all the persons who 
die without leaving female heirs (iap duK). In other Siem- 
ships such property passes to the Siem. The lyngdoh of Nong- 
krem can also take possession of the property of persons who 
have been found to harbour an evil spirit (jingbih) in their 
houses. It appears that in such cases the house and furniture 
are burnt, as in the case of the Taroh superstition in the Jaintia 
Hills, the lyngdoh, however, taking possession of jewellery or 
anything else of value. The only practical service the lyngdoh 
renders in return is to build the afflicted person a new house ; 
unless, indeed, we take into account the casting forth of the 
devil by the lyngdoh. Mr. Jenkins, of Shangpung, in the 
Jaintia Hills, writes : " Such is the belief of the people in the 
evil spirits, that they are completely under the influence of the 
priests and spend large sums of money in order to secure their 
favour. They live in constant dread lest by the least trans- 
gression or omission they should offend these avaricious men 
and so bring upon themselves the wrath of the demons." The 
influence of the lyngdohs over the people in the Jaintia Hills 
seems to be stronger than in the Khasi Hills. For instance, 
it came to my notice in Raliang that crops cannot be cut until 
the lyngdoh has seen them, in other words until the lyngdoh 
has claimed and obtained his share of the produce. In many 
places, however, in the Khasi Hills the lyngdoh is much dis- 
credited, owing, no doubt, to the advance of Christianity and 


The Khasi birth ceremonies and customs are as follows : 
iVhen a child is born the umbilical cord is cut by a sharp 

124 THE KHASIS iv 

splinter of bamboo ; no knife can be used on this occasion)) 
The Mundas of Chota Nagpur similarly taboo a metal instru- 
ment for this purpose. The child is then bathed in hot water 
from a red earthen pot. The placenta is carefully preserved 
in an earthen vessel in the house till after the naming ceremony 
has taken place. When the umbilical cord, after being "tied, 
falls off, a puja is performed with eggs to certain water deities 
(ka llei sam-um and ka niangriang\ l also to a forest spirit 
(u'suid bri or usuid khldiv). (The naming ceremony of the child 
is performed the next morning after the birth. Certain females 
are invited to come and pound rice in a mortar into flour. The 
flour when ready is placed on a bamboo winnower (u praK). 
Fermented rice is mixed with water and is placed in a gourd. 
Some powdered turmeric is also provided, and is kept ready in 
a plantain leaf, also five pieces of 'kha piah, or dried fish. The 
earthen pot containing the placenta is then placed in the 
nongpei, or centre room of the house. If the child is a male, 
they place near him a bow and three arrows (the implements 
of a Khasi warrior) ; if a female, a da and u star, or cane 
head-strap for carrying burdens. An elderly man, who knows 
how to perform the naming puja, which is called by the 
Khasis " kabajer khun" places a plantain-leaf on the floor and 
sprinkles some water on it. He takes the gourd in his hand 
and calls a god to witness. The people assembled then mention 
a number of names for the child, and ask the man who is 
performing the puja to repeat them. This he does, and at the 
same time pours a little liquor from the gourd on to the ground. 
As he goes on pouring, the liquor by degrees becomes exhausted, 
and finally only a few drops remain. The name at the repeat- 
ing of which the last drop of liquor remains adhering to the 
spout of the gourd is the name selected for the child. Then 
the puja performer invokes the god to grant good luck to the 
child. The father takes the pot containing the placenta, after 
having previously placed rice flower and fermented rice therein, 
and waves it three times over the child, and then walks out 
with it through the main entrance of the house and hangs up 
the pot to a tree outside the village. When he returns from 

1 A spirit which is supposed to have the power of causing a disease of the 
navel of a child. 


this duty, before he re-enters the house, another throws 
water over the father's feet. The father, being thus cleansed, 
enters, and holds the rice flour to his mouth three times. Two 
people then, holding the dried fish by their two ends, break 
them in two. The powdered turmeric mixed with rice flour 
and water is applied to the right foot of the father, the mother 
and the child receiving the same treatment. The friends and 
relations are then anointed, the turmeric being applied, however, 
to their left feet. The bow, arrows, da, and u star are carefully 
placed inside the inner surface of the thatch on the roof, and the 
ceremony is over. Rice flour is then distributed to all who 
are present, and the male adults are given liquor to drink. 
After two or three months the ears of the child are bored and 
ear-rings are inserted. These ear-rings are called ki shashkor 
iawbei (i.e. the ear-rings of the great-grandmother). Mr. 
Jenkins mentions that the naming ceremony amongst the 
Syntengs is performed by the " eldest aunt," presumably on the 
mother's side. A basket of eggs is placed in the centre of the 
room, and before the ceremony begins one egg has to be broken. 
Then the aunt of the child takes two sticks, and, raising them 
to her shoulder, lets them fall to the ground. Before they fall 
she shouts, " What name do you give the child ? " The name 
is mentioned, and if, on falling upon the ground, one stick 
crosses the other, it is a proof that the name has won the 
approval of the spirit. If the sticks do not fall in this position, 
another egg is broken and another name is chosen, and the 
sticks are dropped as before until they fall in the required 
position, when it is understood by the performers that the name 
is a good one. Mr. Jenkins was informed by a young man 
" who had renounced heathenism " that some of the more 
cunning women cross the sticks before lifting them, and that 
when they do this they invariably fall crossed to the ground. 
" They thus save their eggs, save time and trouble, get the 
name they desire for the child. . . ." It is noteworthy that 
the Khasis consider it necessary to preserve the placenta until 
the ceremony of naming the child is over, and that the pot 
containing the placenta is waved over the head of the child 
before it is removed and hung up in a tree. 

Dr. Frazer, at page 53 et seq. of the " Golden Bough," when 

126 THE KHASIS iv 

dealing with the subject of sympathetic magic, refers to the 
navel string and the placenta as parts which are commonly 
believed amongst certain people to remain in sympathetic union 
with the body after the physical connection has been severed, 
and it is interesting to note that in the Babar Archipelago, 
between New Guinea and Celebes, the placenta is mixed with 
ashes and put in a small basket, which seven women, each 
of them armed with a sword, hang up on a tree of a peculiar 
kind (Citrus hystrix). The women carry the swords for the 
purpose of frightening the evil spirits, otherwise the latter might 
get hold of the placenta and make the child sick. Mr. C. M. 
Pleyte, Lecturer on Indonesian Ethnology, at the Gymnasium 
William III. at Batavia, who has most courteously furnished 
me with some interesting information on this subject, states 
that it is especially in the Southern Moluccas that the placenta 
is mixed with ashes and hung in a tree. Wider spread is the 
custom of placing the after-birth on a small bamboo raft in a 
river " in order that it may be caught by crocodiles, incarnations 
of the ancestors, who will guard it till the person to whom it 
has belonged dies. Then the soul of the placenta is once more 
united with that of the dead man, and together they go to the 
realms of the dead. During lifetime the connection between 
men and their placentas is never withdrawn." The Khasis, 
although they cannot explain the meaning of the presence of 
the placenta at the naming ceremony, and the care with which 
they remove it and hang it up in a tree, are probably really 
actuated by the same sentiments as the inhabitants of the 
Southern Moluccas, i.e. they believe that there is, as Dr. Frazer 
puts it, a sympathetic union with the body after the physical 
connection with the child has been severed. There is no fixed 
period of sang, or taboo, after a birth, but the parents of the 
child are prohibited by custom from crossing a stream or wash- 
ing their clothes until the navel-string falls off, for fear that 
the child should be attacked by the demons of the hills and the 

The Wdr birth customs are substantially the same as those 
of the Khasis, but there is the difference that a Wdr family 
after a birth is sang, or taboo, for seven days, whereas amongst 
the Khasis the only prohibition is that the parents must not 


cross a stream or wash their clothes until they have propitiated 
the spirits. A twin birth is sang or taboo. The Khasis argue 
that as there is but one Ka lawbei (first ancestress), and one 
U Thdwlang (first ancestor), so one child, either male or female, 
should be born at a time. A twin birth is accordingly regarded 
as a visitation from God for some sang, or transgression, com- 
mitted by some member of the clan. When the twins are of 
opposite sexes the sang is considered to be extremely serious, 
the Khasi idea being that defilement has taken place within 
the womb. The case is treated as one of shong kur, or marriage 
within the clan, and the bones of the twins cannot be placed in 
the sepulchre of the clan. 

There are no special birth customs amongst the Lynngams. 

There is no trace of the couvade amongst the Khasis. 


We now come to consider marriage amongst the Khasis from 
a religious point of view. Shadwell has said that marriage 
amongst the Khasis "is purely a civil contract." This state- 
ment is not correct, for there is an elaborate religious ceremony 
at which God the creator, U'lei thaw briew man briew, the god 
or goddess of the State, U or ka'lei Synshar, and, what is pro- 
bably more important, the ancestress and ancestor of the clan, 
Ka lawbei-tymmen and U Thawlang, are invoked. There are 
three marriage ceremonies prevalent amongst the Khasis, which 
are (a) Pynhiarsynjat, (b) Lamdoh, and (c) ladih-kiad, respec- 
tively. The first and second forms above mentioned are 
considered the more respectable ; the last-named is resorted to 
by the very poor who cannot afford the greater expense entailed 
by the first two ceremonies. 

Preliminaries. A young man of marriageable age, say 
between seventeen or eighteen years of age and twenty-five, 
fixes upon a, girl of, say between thirteen and eighteen years, 
as likely to become a fitting partner; probably he has been 
acquainted with the young woman for some time before, and 
is on more or less easy terms of intimacy with her. He 
mentions the name of the girl to his parents, and uncles and 
aunts in the house, and they agree or disagree, as the case may 


be. Sometimes marriages are arranged by the parents of the 
young people themselves. Having agreed regarding the fitness 
of the bride, the young man's parents send a male representa- 
tive of the family, or in some cases a man unconnected with 
the family, to arrange matters with the parents of the' bride. 
The latter then ascertain their daughter's wishes. According 
to the late U Jeeban Roy, the daughters nearly always agree, 
it is very seldom that it is necessary to bring any pressure to 
bear. The parents then investigate whether there is any sang, 
or taboo, such as clan relationship, between the young woman 
and her intended, in the way of the marriage. If there is 
found to be no such hindrance, they fix a date for finally 
arranging the marriage (Ian ia Jcut ktien.) On the day appointed 
the bride's family consult the auspices by breaking eggs and 
examining fowls' entrails. If the omens are favourable, well 
and good. Should they be unfavourable, they abandon the 
marriage project. There is a strong prejudice against a 
marriage taking place under unfavourable auspices, the belief 
being that such an union will be childless, that the bride will 
die an untimely death, or that poverty will ensue. Given 
favourable auspices, the parents fix a day for the marriage. It 
was formerly the custom for the bridegroom to provide him- 
self beforehand with a ring, usually of silver, but, amongst the 
rich, of gold, which is called Ka synjat (hence the name of the 
marriage ceremony Pynhiar-synjat\ and for the bride to 
provide herself with a similar ring. The bridegroom used to 
place his ring upon the bride's finger, and the bride used to 
place her ring upon the bridegroom's finger; it is however 
believed that this custom is rare nowadays. On the marriage 
day a man is selected from the party of the bridegroom called 
u ksiang, or go-between. The bridegroom then sets out with 
this man and a number of followers, clothed in clean garments 
and wearing either white or red pagris (a black pagri not being 
considered a fitting head-dress on this occasion), to the house 
of the bride, where a feast has been prepared, and fermented 
rice -beer (ka-kiad-hiar\ in gourds (klong), placed ready. The 
bride, her female attendants, and her mother and aunts have 
collected in the meantime, dressed in their best, wearing their 
jewellery, and with their heads uncovered, for it is not 

iv MARRIAGE 129 

thought proper for the females to cover their heads on the 
marriage day. On the side of the bride, also, a ksiang (go- 
between) has been appointed, and it is his duty to manage all 
the business of the marriage on behalf of her family. Some 
young men of the bride's party go to meet the bridegroom's 
contingent by way of doing them honour. When they have 
reached the bride's house, the ksiang of the bridegroom enters 
first, followed by the bridegroom, and after him the bride- 
groom's party. The ksiang then hands over the bridegroom to 
the maternal uncle (kni) of the bride, or to the bride's father. 
Either of the latter then provides the bridegroom with a seat 
next the bride. The bride and bridegroom exchange bags of 
betel-nut, and where the custom of investiture of the ring 
is in vogue, these tokens are interchanged. The ksiangs 
of the bridegroom and bride recite the marriage contract in 
lengthy formula}, which may be found on pages 6, 7, 8 of 
the late U Jeeban Roy's interesting notes on the Khasi 
religion. The two ksiangs then take up, each of them, a 
gourd containing fermented liquor from the gourd provided 
by the contracting party, and give them to an old man who is 
versed in sacrificial lore, who solemnly mixes the contents 
together. Three dried fish are produced, and are placed on the 
floor of the house. The priest thus appointed then solemnly 
adjures the gods in the following words : 

Hei, oh god from above ; oh god from below ; oh 'lei synshar ; 
oh god who hast created man; as thou hast ordained this marriage, 
the ring has been given this day; thou wilt know; thou wilt hear; 
from the clear firmament above that .... have been married 
this day. Thou wilt bless them ; thou wilt grant them prosperity ; 
thou wilt show them the way ; thou wilt show them the road, 
that they may be well, that they may obtain dwellings and houses, 
that they may prosper, that they may obtain rice and fish, that 
they may possess hundreds and thousands ; thus, oh god." The 
priest then pours liquor on the ground three times from the 
gourd, counting " one, two, three." He then continues the 
invocation thus, " Hei, thou, oh mother; oh grandmother; oh 
maternal uncle ; oh father ; oh Suid-nia ; oh younger grand- 
mother ; oh elder grandmother ; oh younger grandfather ; oh 
elder grandfather. As the flesh has fallen (on the floor, i.e. the 


130 THE KHASIS iv 

feast has been prepared), the ring has been put on, the three 
strips of flesh are ready (alluding to the three dried fish already 
mentioned), you will all of you (ancestors) give ear, you will 
continue giving strength and spirit (i.e., to the married pair) 
that they may be well " (and so on, as written in the first invoca- 
tion). He then pours out the liquor three times as before. He 
then adjures the Siem, the elders, and all the people who do not 
belong to either of the two clans, and pours out liquor three 
times as before. The three pieces of dried fish are first placed 
on the tympan, the high rack above the fire-place, then removed 
and tied to the ridge-pole of the house, amidst shouts of 
Ho, hoi, hoi, hoi. The poor then sacrifice a fowl, and the 
rich a pig without blemish (uba tlem), to u Suidnia and lea 
Jaw-lei (the spirits of deceased ancestors of the family), 
and present them with dykhot, or pieces of flesh. Two or 
three days afterwards, the bride, accompanied by her female 
relatives, pays a visit to the bridegroom at his house, and after 
this they go and come as they like to one another's houses. 
After two or three children have been born, they take down the 
pieces of dried fish from the roof and sacrifice two pigs, one 
on behalf of the husband and another on behalf of the wife. 
Then they say there can be no possible sang, and husband and 
wife use each other's things and pool their earnings, and if the 
husband has a house of his own, the wife can go and live with 
him ; this, however, is not the custom amongst many of the 
Syntengs, who more strictly observe the principles of the 
matriarchate. The cost of the marriage ceremonies amongst 
Khasis, Syntengs, and Wars may be put down at between Rs. 50 
and Rs. 200, according to the position of the parties. 


This ceremony is identical with that of Pynhiar synjat, except 
that the bride and bridegroom do not interchange rings, and 
that there is no sacrifice of the pig. The parties merely buy some 
pig's flesh and perform a puja with a small portion of the flesh 
of the legs of the animal. Amongst the poor, fish sometimes 
takes the place of pork at the ladih-kiad ceremony. The latter 
consists of a drinking bout mingled with muttered sentences by 


a nongfcinia (sacrificer), the invocations and prayers being the 
same as at the Pynhiar synjat. The Lamdoh and ladih-kiad 
ceremonies take the place of the more elaborate Pynhiar synjat 
in most places now-a-days. 


The ritual observed at these marriages is described as under : 
First of all a proposal is made in the following manner. A 
Jcsiang, or go-between, is sent, with the brother of the girl for 
whom a husband is required, to the house of the father of the 
young man (not to the house of the mother as is the case with the 
Khasis). If the proposal is accepted, the father of the young 
man kills a pig, and gives a feast to the people of the village of 
his father-in-law elect ; also to the go-between and the borang 
(brother of the bride). The father of the bride then gives a 
similar feast. A sum of Re. 1 each is given as a present to the 
go-between by the fathers of the bride and bridegroom, and the 
father of the bride pays from Rs. 5 to Rs. 15 to the father of 
the bridegroom. Further feasting ensues at the house of the 
father of the bride. The go-betweens then sacrifice a pig and 
two fowls at the house of the bridegroom, and afterwards per- 
form the same sacrifice at the house of the bride. At the house 
of the bride, after the fowls and the pig have been sacrificed, the 
go-between, after drinking liquor himself, pours out some on 
the floor of the house and then gives some to the bride and 
bridegroom to drink. The killing of the fowls, the sacrifice of 
the pig, and the libation of liquor are essentials at a Lynngam 
marriage. The sacrifice of the fowls is also an essential feature 
of a Garo marriage. The Lynngams, unlike the Garos, do not 
observe which way the beaks of the fowls turn when they are 
thrown on the ground after being sacrificed. The Lynngams, 
like the Khasis, take auguries from the entrails of the fowls and 
the pig. After these ceremonies are over, the Lynngam pair 
are allowed to cohabit. The cost of an ordinary Lynngam 
marriage is from Rs. 30 to Rs. 40. The marriage system in 
vogue among the Lynngams may be described as a mixture 
of the Khasi and Garo customs. As has already been stated 
the Lynngams are a mongrel breed of Khasis and Garos. 

132 THE KHASIS iv 


The death customs of the Khasis are not only very elaborate 
but possess a significance of their own ; it is, therefore, necessary 
to describe them in detail ; they are as follows : 

A member of the family bends down towards the ear 
of the apparently deceased person and calls him or her by 
name three times, to make sure that death has occurred. 
If no answer comes, the family laments, for it is then con- 
cluded that the person is really dead. The body is then bathed 
in warm water from three earthen pots and is reverently 
laid on a mat (japung\ where it is dressed in white cloth, a 
peculiar feature of the dressing being that the waist-cloth and 
turban are folded from left to right, and not from right to left, 
as in the case of the living. An egg called u'leng kpoh 
is placed on the stomach of the deceased, and nine fried grains 
of riw hadem, or Indian corn, are tied round the head with a 
string. The rich place ear-rings in the ears and other jewellery 
on the body of the deceased, it being necessary that this 
jewellery should be specially made for the occasion, and they 
deck the corpse with valuable cloths. A cock, u'iar krad lynti 
(literally the cock that scratches the way), is sacrificed, the idea 
being that a cock will scratch a path for the spirit to the next 
world. A sacrifice of a bull, or of a cow in case the deceased is 
a woman (u or ka masi pynsum), follows. Portions of the left 
leg of the fowl and the lower part of the jaw of the bull or cow 
are kept, to be placed afterwards in the mawshieng, or bone 
receptacle. A small basket (ka shang} is hung up over the head 
of the corpse, the basket containing pieces (dykhot) of the sacri- 
ficed animals. A dish containing eatables, and betel-nut, and ajar 
of water are placed near the head of the corpse by way of offering 
refreshment to the spirit of the departed. The food is given 
each morning and evening that the corpse remains in the house : 
this is called di ja miet ja step. Each night the corpse remains 
in the house guns are fired, drums are beaten and flutes (shdrdti) 
are played. It is a noteworthy custom that the body is not 
retained in the house for an even number of nights, the usual 
time being three nights. If it is intended to burn the body on 
a masonry pyre (jingthang), a bull (u masi kynroti) is sacrificed. 


If the body is placed in a coffin (ka shyngoid), a pig named 
uniang shyngoid is sacrificed, and if it is intended to adorn 
the pyre with flags, a fowl called u'iar kait is sacrificed. On the 
day of the funeral procession pigs are sacrificed by the relatives 
and friends of the deceased ; those who cannot afford pigs bring 
liquor (ka'iad rong), a small portion of which they pour on the 
funeral pyre. The coffin is laid on a bamboo bier (ka krong), 
money being placed close to the corpse, so that the spirit of the 
deceased may possess the wherewithal to buy food on its journey. 
Cotton, or, in the case of the rich, silk cloths are tied cross-ways 
over the bier, if the deceased is a male, and in the form of 
a parallelogram, if it is a female. Before lifting the bier a 
handful of rice and water from a jar are thrown outside, and a 
goat (u'lang sait ksuid) is sacrificed. These are purificatory 
ceremonies. The funeral procession then forms up and slowly 
passes along the way to the plaintive music of flutes (sh&rdti) 
and the beating of drums. At intervals, in the case of the rich, 
salutes from guns are fired. Copper coins are also scattered 
along the route. On nearing the pyre the dead body is exposed 
to view, and the pieces of flesh of the sacrificial animals, 
which are with the corpse, are thrown away. They make ready 
three baked loaves (ki kpu), an egg, the lower jaw-bones of the 
animals which have been sacrificed, the left leg of the fowl 
(uiar krad lynti\ a jar of water, eatables in a dish, and a bow 
and three arrows. A goat is then sacrificed, u'lang mdwkjat. 
The corpse is laid on the pyre, inside the coffin, if one is used, 
with the head to the west and the feet to the east. Logs of 
wood are placed around the body, and the egg, " u'leng kpoh" 
is broken, not over the stomach of the deceased, as has been some- 
times supposed, but by being thrown on the pyre, in the direction 
of the feet of the corpse. Fire is applied to the pyre, first by the 
kur, or members of the clan, and then by the children, if any, of the 
deceased. Another fowl, " u'iar padat" is sacrificed, its blood 
being smeared round the pyre three times, and across the corpse 
three times. The bier is then broken to pieces, the cloths having 
been removed from it previously. The eatables and the jaw-bones 
of the sacrificial animals are then placed at the head of the pyre. 
After the fowl (u'iar padat) has been sacrificed, the three arrows 
already mentioned are shot from the bow, one to the north, 

134 THE KHASIS iv 

another to the south, and a third to the east. These arrows 
are called ki 'nam tympem. It is, perhaps, significant that the 
arrows which are shot at death correspond in numbers with 
those which are used at the time of the birth ceremony. When 
the fire has blazed up, another goat, " u'lang dholia" is sacrificed. 
In some cases all the clothes of the deceased are burnt with the 
body, in others the clothes are merely held over the fire and 
then taken away, after which they can be used (this is only in 
the case of poor persons). Before leaving the burning-place the 
relatives and friends of the deceased place betel-nuts on the 
pyre and bid farewell to the deceased, saying " Khublei khie hit 
bam kwai sha iing u Blei ho " (good-bye, go and eat betel-nut in 
the house of god). When the body has been thoroughly burnt, 
the fire is extinguished with water, and the uncalcined bones 
are collected by the relatives in three trips. The collectors 
are not allowed to turn back and pick up a bone which has 
been forgotten in any one of these trips. The bones thus 
collected are carefully wrapped in a piece of white cloth 
by the female relatives, and an old member of the family 
throws on the ground some powdered rice from a leaf, at 
the same time adjuring the spirit of the deceased not to 
trouble the kur. or the family, as the funeral ceremonies 
have been duly performed. The party then sets out to the 
bone repository, or mawshieng. In front walks one who strews 
along the line of route leaves of the tree known by the Khasis 
as dieng shit (the berries of which are used for fishing with), 
and grains of rice, all the way from the pyre to the cairn. 
If any stream has to be crossed, a rough bridge is made of 
branches and grass. This trail of leaves and the bridges are 
intended to guide the spirit of the deceased to the cairn. The 
person who carries the bones is not allowed to turn round, or 
to the right, or to the left, but must proceed straight to the 
cairn. On reaching it, a nongknia, or sacrificer, washes the 
bones three times and then places them in an earthen 
pot, tying up the mouth with a white cloth. Then, having 
taken three pieces of the hard yolk of an egg, three loaves 
of bread, the leg of the fowl, "u'iar krad lynti" and the 
lower jaw-bones of the animals which have been sacrificed, he 
places them inside the cairn and shuts the door. Eatables and 



W M 


X 3 
* I 


betel-nut are. then placed on the top of the cairn. Early next 
morning the relatives and friends go to the cairn with fresh 
food and water, and look about for new foot-prints, the idea being 
that from these foot-prints they can foretell future events. 
This they do until the third night after the cremation. 
During these three nights the front door of the house formerly 
occupied by the deceased is never closed, it being thought that 
the spirit may wish to return and visit its earthly abode. The 
whole family is moreover sang, or taboo, during this period, and 
no manner of work can be done. When the three nights are 
over, it is called the lait ia, i.e. the days (of mourning) are 
past, and three eggs are broken to ascertain what was the 
cause of the death. After this the family goes to bathe, and 
the clothes and mats in the house are washed. When this has 
been done, the taboo is removed and the family can go to 
work. After a month a pig or a fowl is sacrificed, the ceremony 
being called "ai lam lait Inai!' It will be observed that 
three seems to be the lucky number throughout these funeral 
ceremonies. The number seems to bear a similar significance 
in other matters of Khasi ritual, e.g. the pouring out of 
libations, which is always done three times. 

It is sang or taboo for a Khasi widow to re-marry within one 
year from the death of her husband ; there is a similar prohibi- 
tion for a husband re-marrying ; but such sang can be got over 
by the payment of a fine to the clan of the deceased. After the 
expiration of one year the fine is reduced in amount. Khasi 
widows do not as a rule re-marry, according to U Jeeban Roy, 
unless they have no female children, in which case the clan 
urges them to re-marry, so that the chain of inheritance may 
not be broken, inheritance among the Khasis always passing in 
the female line. 


These customs are interesting enough to deserve a separate 
description ; they are as follows : 

If a man dies by the sword, before his body can be burnt, 
a sacrifice of a black hen must be offered to Ka Tyrut, the 

136 THE KHASIS iv 

eoddess of death. The bones are then placed in a stone cairn. 

O * 

Again they are removed, and, after eggs have been broken, 
are taken to a river bank and there washed. If there is no 
river at hand, a tank is dug for the purpose, which is called 
umkoi. There are various such umkois in different parts of 
the district, e.g. near Raliang and Nartiang. A sacrifice of a 
goat is offered to the god V Syngkai Bamon, and a sow to Ka 
Ramshandi, both of whom are evil deities. Another sow is 
sacrificed to Ka Tyrut. After this the bones are placed in 
another newly-built cairn. The ceremony of placing the bones 
in on'e and then removing them to another cairn is usually per- 
formed three times ; but unless the auspices, as deduced from 
the eggs, are favourable, the relatives must go on sacrificing and 
removing the bones until they are so. These ceremonies having 
been completed, they erect a flat table-stone, or mavikynthei, 
for the ghost of the departed to sit upon, and return 
home, where they propitiate their ancestors with offerings of 
food. In the case of the murdered victims of the thlen 
superstition the same ceremonies are observed. For people who 
have died by drowning, or been killed by wild animals, and 
for women who have died in child-birth, similar pujas are 
offered, except that a sacrifice to U Syngkai Bamon does not 
take place. In the case of one who has died at a distance from 
his home, e.g. in a foreign country, whose body has not been 
burnt in accordance with custom, and whose bones have not been 
collected, the members of his clan, or his children, take three or 
five seeds or cowries (sbai) to a place where three roads meet. 
Here they summon the spirit of the departed in a loud voice, 
and throw up the seeds or cowries into the air, and when they 
fall to the ground they say, " to alle noh ba ngin sa lum sa 
kynshew noh ia phi" come now we will collect you (the idea 
being that the seeds represent the bones of the deceased). 
Having collected the seeds, they place them on a bier and per- 
form the service for the dead just in the same way as if a real 
dead body were to hand. If possible, a portion of the dead 
person's clothes should be burnt with the seeds in the bier, and 
it is with this view that the coats or cloths of Khasi coolies, who 
die when employed as porters on military expeditions at a dis- 
tance from their homes, are brought back by their friends to 


give to the relatives. If a person dies of cholera, small-pox, or 
other such infectious or contagious disease, the body is buried, 
but is dug up again and burnt with all the customary rites 
when fear of infection or contagion is over. In parts of the dis- 
trict upright stones called maw-umkoi are erected along the 
line of route when the remains of a person who has met with 
an accidental death are brought home. This is stated to be 
the case in the Rambrai Siemship. 


In Nongjri,a large village in the War country, the dead body 
is placed on a bier near the door of the house, a turban being 
tied about the head, the face being left bare and turned towards 
the door. In some of the Sheila villages a second cremation is 
performed, in which a bamboo frame-work represents the corpse. 
This second cremation takes place when the body has been dis- 
posed of without the requisite ceremonies. The bones and 
ashes of the dead in Sheila are in some cases kept in a cavity 
hollowed out of a post erected for the purpose. The bones and 
ashes find a temporary resting-place here, but are afterwards 
removed to a cromlech. 

At Nartiang, in the Jaintia Hills, the head of the corpse is 
shaved, but a tuft of hair in the middle of the head is left ; this 
is called (uniuh Iawbei\ the great grandmother's lock. At Nar- 
tiang betel-nut, which has been chewed by one of the mourners, 
is put into the mouth of the corpse, also cooked rice. There is 
a similar custom prevalent amongst the Khyrwangs. The 
Nongtungs, in the Jaintia Hills, keep dead bodies sometimes as 
long as a month, until the phur or ceremonial dance has been 
performed. Hence they are called Nong-tung, or " stinkers." 
Amongst the Lynngams the dead body is kept for sometimes 
three or four months, or up to the time when a bull can be 
procured for a feast to the villagers. This feast is an essential, 
and, cattle being scarce in the Lynngam country, there is often 
great delay in disposing of the body. Lynngam villages at such a 
time are best avoided. The Lynngams of Nongsohbar bury the 
unburnt bones of the deceased within the village, and in front 
of the house occupied by the deceased when alive, the bones 

138 THE KHASIS iv 

being placed in a hole in the ground, over which is laid a stone, 
a bamboo mat being nailed over the stone. A bamboo fence 
three or four feet high is erected round the grave. Other 
Lynngams bury the uncalcined bones and ashes in a gourd in 
the jungle near the burning-place. On their way home, the 
members of the clan of the deceased who have come" from other 
villages to witness the funeral obsequies, put up a stone on the 
path in honour of the deceased, a turban being tied round the 
top of the stone. The Garos or Dkos, who live at the foot of 
the hills on the Kamrup border, and are called by the Assamese 
Hana (spear-men), erect memorial stones in honour of the 
deceased, the lower jaw-bones of sacrificial animals and other 
articles being hung on the stones. The stones are also swathed 
in cloths, and turbans are tied round the tops. The death 
customs of the Lynngams, and, indeed, other customs also, are 
partly Khasi and partly Garo, it being difficult to say that the 
Lynngams are more Khasi than Garo, or more Garo than Khasi 
in this respect ; their language, however, has been found by Sir 
George Grierson to be a corruption of Khasi. In Nongstoin, 
Mawlih, and Mariaw villages, the inhabitants of which profess 
to be Khasis, the bones and ashes of the deceased are not 
collected and placed in repositories, as at Cherrapunji. At 
Mariaw and Nongstoin a large wooden coffin is used, painted 
white, with ornamentations on the outside, and standing on four 
legs. This coffin is not burnt on the funeral pyre. In the 
family of the chiefs of Cherra, the body of a deceased Siem is 
subjected to the following process : It is wrapped in a cloth 
and placed in the hollowed-out trunk of a tree, ka-shyngoid y 
there being a small hole with a plug at the bottom of this 
receptacle. Spirit is then poured into the shyngoid until the 
whole body is immersed, the liquor being allowed to stand for 
three days. After the body has been thus steeped, the liquor is 
allowed to run out, and the body is washed with warm water, 
after which it is allowed to dry for a day. Then a quantity of 
lime-juice is poured in, the latter being obtained from the fresh 
fruit of the lime (u soh jew}. The body is thus exposed to a 
process of pickling, which continues until the whole is 
thoroughly dry and becomes like that of a mummy. It is 
then placed in a coffin, which is kept in the house of the Siem 


family until it is time to perform the funeral obsequies. These 
ceremonies entail a very large amount of expense, and it some- 
times happens that they cannot be completed for some years 
after the death of a Siem. The body of a deceased Siem accord- 
ing to the Cherra custom should be burnt by his successor; 
otherwise the latter is not Siem according to the Khasi religion. 
The last Siem of Cherra, U Hajon Manik, did not perform the 
funeral obsequies of his predecessor U Ram Singh, and it is 
stated that many of his subjects did not regard him as Siem, 
according to the Khasi religion, in consequence. Although 
U Ram Singh Siem died as far back as the year 1875 his body 
was not cremated till 1908, after U Roba Singh, the present chief, 
had been Siem for some seven years. The disturbance in the 
state of Cherra after the succession of U Roba Singh and want 
of funds were the causes of this last delay. Before the crema- 
tion took place there was the coronation of U Roba Singh at 
the iing sdd, or sacred house, in front of a post of the holy Khasi 
oak (lea dieng suing), the actual coronation consisting in the head 
of the Nongrum clan tying a pdgri round the head of the Siem. 
After an interchange of presents between the chief and his 
ministers the whole party moved in slow procession to the State 
market place where twelve goats were solemnly sacrificed. Then 
followed Khasi dances and singing and feasting which continued 
till far into the night. The next morning early the Siem and 
his family performed the purificatory ceremonies for the dead at 
the iing seng, or family puja-house, where the remains of the 
deceased, U Ram Singh, had reposed so long in a wooden coffin 
alongside the family sleeping-apartment. After the puja was 
over the coffin was removed to the iing sdd, or house of state 
ceremonial, where it was enclosed in an elaborately carved 
wooden shell, or lyngkdsan, which was placed on a bier, the 
sacrificing of many goats before the bier followed, on which 
the funeral procession formed up and a large conical canopy, 
resembling in shape a Muhammadan tdzia, was placed on the top 
of the shell. The cortege moved off to the plaintive notes of flutes 
(shdrdti), which are played always on such occasions. The Siem 
and his nephews took an active part encouraging the bearers 
who staggered under the weight of the whole paraphernalia. 
In the crowd that followed were several thousand Khasis who 

140 THE KHASIS iv 

had long been eagerly looking forward to this grand event. 
The procession passed on amidst showers of fireworks, to a great 
stone platform, or jingt&ng, which had been built specially for 
this occasion. The bier having been placed on the platform the 
ceremonies for the dead followed and a grand dance was exe- 
cuted in front of the pyre, the Siem distributing meanwhile 
liberal largesse to the crowd. The ladies of the Siem family 
presented betel-nut for the delectation of the spirit of the 
deceased, and after asking the spirit in shrill tones not to 
trouble them further, took their departure. Torches were then 
applied to the pyre and the remains of U Ram Singh were 
burnt in the presence, it is estimated, of full fifteen thousand 

Sir Joseph Hooker and other authorities have stated that the 
bodies of deceased Siems of Cherra used to be embalmed in 
honey, and an amusing story is told regarding the necessity of 
exercising caution in purchasing honey from Cherra (honey 
being plentiful in this neighbourhood), except in the comb, for 
fear of honey which has been used for embalming purposes 
being passed off on the unwary purchaser. But the members 
of the Siem family and the old residents deny that honey is 
used for this purpose now-a-days, possibly in the interests of 
the trade. It is, however, not unlikely that honey was so 
utilised in days gone by, as it is a well-known agent for 
embalming. The bodies of priests in Burmah are said to be 
embalmed in honey, vide Yule's " Embassy to Ava." 1 


The collection of the uncalcined bones and ashes of the 
deceased members of the clan and their bestowal in the mawbah, 
or grand ossuary of the clan, is without doubt the most im- 
portant religious ceremony that the Khasis perform. That 
this ceremony is seldom celebrated now, is due partly to 
the difficulty that exists in obtaining general agreement 

1 The writer was informed at Cherra that the bodies of the Cherra chiefs 
are preserved in spirit and lime-juice whilst awaiting cremation. The 
practice of preservation of royal corpses in honey is not known at Cherra 


amongst the members of the clans, and partly to the con- 
siderable expense it entails. The information I have obtained 
regarding the ceremony, although differing to some extent in 
detail from that recorded by the late U Jeeban Roy, agrees with 
the latter's account as regards the main facts. The information 
may now be set down as follows. By way of premise it may 
be stated that the bones and ashes of the deceased are kept 
after cremation in small stone cairns, or mawshieng. From 
these small cairns the bones and ashes are removed to larger 
bone repositories called mawphew, each branch of a clan possess- 
ing a repository of its own. The ceremony attending the 
removal of the bones and ashes from the small cairns to the 
larger repository, or mawphew, and the ceremony attached to the 
removal of these remains from the mawphew to the sepulchre 
of the clan are practically the same, except that when the 
bones are removed to the mawphew, no female dancing takes 
place. First of all, the members of the various branches of the 
clan collect the bones from the different subsidiary repositories, 
when a ceremony called " khot ia u lor u kap" which it is not 
necessary to describe here, is performed. The bones of the 
deceased males and females are kept separately, and preparations 
are made to bring them to the sepulchre of the clan. Before, 
however, anything further can be done, it must be ascertained 
that the members of the clan are at peace with one another and 
no differences exist. If all differences are settled, a sacrificer 
offers up a prayer that the sins of the clans-folk may be for- 
given, and then breaks eggs and sacrifices a cock to ascertain 
which will be a propitious day for depositing the bones in the 
sepulchre. A lucky day having been thus ascertained, the 
bones and ashes are brought to the iing seng, or clan puja-house, 
the bones of males and females being kept in separate bundles 
wrapped in white cloth, two women of the clan reverently 
carrying them in their arms, holding the bundles of bones to 
their breasts. One female carries the bones of the males and 
the other those of the females. In front of these women walks 
an old man who scatters along the way leaves of the dieng-shit 
tree and grains of rice, and when it is necessary to cross any 
stream or river, he ties a thread from one side of the bank to the 
other, this is for the spirit of the departed to cross the water. 

142 THE KHASIS iv 

Sometimes u'nam tohrih, a kind of long grass, is used instead 
of thread for the above purpose. On arrival at the clan 
puja-house, the bones of the males are laid on one bed and those 
of the females on another, the beds being bedecked with rich 
hangings. A cock, u'iar Icradlynti (lit. " the cock which 
scratches the way "), is sacrificed, this sacrifice being considered 
by the Khasis to be of peculiar significance. A pig, a cock, and a 
bull are then sacrificed, and portions of the above are offered to 
the spirits of the deceased. These offerings are known by the 
name of ai-bam y and are placed in a basket which is hung up in 
the house, together with the left thigh of the fowl and the lower 
jaw-bone of the bullock. A dance is performed that night, first 
in the house by two women, one belonging to the clan and the 
other an outsider, and afterwards in a specially prepared place 
outside the house called " lympung" The shdrdti, or flute, which 
is played at funerals, is sounded, drums are beaten, and bombs 
are exploded. This dancing lasts from one to nine days, the 
limit being always an uneven number of days. At Cherra two 
effigies called Ka Puron and U Tyngshop are prepared and 
dressed up ; the former is intended to represent Ka lawbei, the 
first ancestress, and the other U Suidnia, the first maternal 
uncle of the clan. These effigies are held in the hands of 
the dancers. In the meantime two lines of upright stones 
consisting of three each, with a table-stone in front of 
each line, have been set up. These are called maivkjat or 
mawlynti, and are intended to serve as resting-places for the 
spirits of the dead on their way to the tomb of the clan. 
These stones are generally not more than three feet in height, 
and must not be confounded with the larger stones or 
mawbynna. On the night before it is proposed to deposit the 
bones, a ceremony called " Bek-tympew " is performed, which 
consists of driving out the devils from the house, so that they 
may not interfere with the peace of the spirits of the departed 
whilst they rest in the house, and on their journey to the tomb. 
All the men after they have performed this ceremony are given 
a drink of rice-beer known as 'iad nonglieh. Another cock is 
sacrificed, and a small bamboo ladder of three rungs is prepared 
for the use of the spirits when climbing into the tomb. Rice is 
then thrown outside the door. The next morning they perform 


further sacrifices, which need not be detailed here, and let loose 
a bull whose horns have been cased in silver. They dig two 
shallow tanks called umkoi, into which is poured water supposed 
to possess the virtue of purifying the bones of any deceased 
clansmen who have died violent or unnatural deaths, or at 
places far away from their homes, where it was not possible to 
perform their funeral ceremonies according to custom. Three 
vertical stones are also erected, called maw umkoi. A bamboo 
with a white flag, and a plantain tree are set up ; to the bamboo 
are attached three bamboo rings (kyrwoh\ which are supposed 
to act as summonses to the spirits of the departed who have not 
received the benefits of a proper funeral ceremony. It may be 
explained that this ring of bamboo or cane is the form of sum- 
mons used by the Khasi chiefs to their subjects when they wish 
to call them before them. Then a cock, u'iar umkoi, is sacrificed 
as a vicarious victim to bear the sins of the departed. 
When the procession reaches the mawkjat or mawlynti (the 
upright stones which have been erected), a goat called u'lang 
mawlynti is sacrificed. Then a bamboo is fixed to the centre 
one of the three upright stones, to which is attached the lower 
jaw-bone of one of the cattle sacrificed in the puja-house ; this 
is called u masi mawlynti. A special ceremony called ka- 
lynyka-pongrei is then performed for those of the clan who 
have died childless. We now come to the actual ceremony of 
placing the bones in the tomb of the clan, Having arrived at 
the tomb, the bones are washed three times in a dish (this is a 
Cherra custom). In Mawshai, the bones are exposed to the 
heat of a fire kindled on a small jingthang, or burning-platform. 
The stone door of the ossuary is then opened, and the bones 
of the females are placed in an earthen pot inside the tomb 
close to the wall which is farthest away from the door, the 
bones of the males being deposited in a pot inside the tomb 
nearest the door. Some clans keep the pot containing the 
bones of the males on the right, and the vessel containing those 
of the females on the left hand. Then offerings of food and 
libations of liquor are offered to the ancestors on a stone in 
front of the tomb. The males perform a ceremonial dance 
with swords and shields, three times, and the door of the 
sepulchre is closed, a flag being fixed to the tomb. All the 


clansfolk then depart except three men. One of these sacrifices 
a cock (iar-tanding) in front of the tomb, a second sits behind 
the sacrificer, holding three firebrands, and a third sits behind 
the tomb. The man with the firebrands shakes them about, 
and then crows like a cock three times. The man behind the 
tomb listens attentively for any fancied noise within it, the 
superstition being that if the ceremonies detailed above have 
not been properly performed, the whole tomb will quake. If 
the three watchers are satisfied that there is no commotion 
within the tomb, then all is well, and they return and report the 
result to the clanspeople. This ceremony is called landing, or 
the fire test. Next morning the woman who is the head of the 
iing-seng, or puja-house, distributes to all those who have taken 
part in these sacrifices the hinder portions of the sacrificial 
animals. She then blesses one by one the assembled clans- 
folk. The latter are not permitted by custom to go to 
work until after three days from the time of the ceremony 
the third day being called ka sngi lait ia. The ceremony 
described above is a symbolical one. The massive stone sepul- 
chre is regarded as a symbol of a secure place of rest for the 
departed spirits. If the spirits of the dead are not, however, 
appeased by the due performance of the ceremonies attending 
the bestowal of the remains in the clan ossuary, it is believed 
that they roam about and haunt their relations on earth, and 
plague them with various misfortunes. It may be interesting 
to note here, that Mr. Moberly, the Superintendent of Ethno- 
graphy in Bengal, reports that the ashes of deceased Hos, after 
being sprinkled with water by means of peepul branches, are 
collected, dried, and placed in a new earthen pot, and kept in 
the house until the day of burial, which may take place, as with 
the Khasis, long afterwards. The bones are buried in the 
village under a large slab of stone (cf. the Khasi cromlech) 
and a monolith is erected outside the village to commemorate 
the deceased. 


Probably one of the first objects which strikes the eye of a 
visitor to the Khasi Hills is the very large number of monoliths, 


table-stones, and cromlechs that are to be met with almost 
everywhere in that country. Yule, Dalton, and other writers 
have incidentally referred to them, but, as far as is known at 
present, no attempt has been made to explain in any detail 
what is the peculiar significance of these objects to the Khasis. 
These stones are rightly styled memorial stones ; kynmaw, liter- 
ally " to mark with a stone," is the word in the Khasi language 
for " to remember." The memorial stone, in the ordinary sense 
of the word, is a memorial to the dead ; but we have such names 
of places in these hills as Maomluh, the salt stone (the eating of 
salt off the blade of a sword being one of the Khasi forms of 
oath), Maosmai, the oath stone, Maophlang, the grassy stone, 
and others. To commemorate with a stone an important 
event has been a constant custom amongst many people in many 
places, and the erection of grave-stones, to mark the spot where 
the remains of the dead are buried, is an almost universal prac- 
tice amongst the Western nations, as indeed amongst some of 
the Eastern also. But the Khasi menhirs are no more grave- 
stones, in the sense of marking the place where the remains of 
the dead lie, than some of the memorials of Westminster Abbey 
and other fanes ; the Khasi stones are cenotaphs, the remains 
of the dead being carefully preserved in stone sepulchres, 
which are often some distance apart from the memorial stones. 
It is proposed to treat this subject under the following 
headings : 

(1) A general description of the memorial stones in the 
Khasi Hills, showing that they are very similar in shape 
to monoliths, table-stones, or cromlechs in other parts of the 
world and of India. 

(2) A comparison between Khasi memorial stones and 
those of the Ho-Mundas, the stones near Belgaum, those of 
the Mikirs, the monoliths at Willong in the Manipur hills, and 
the Dimapur monoliths. 

(3) The meaning of the stones. 

(4) The method of their erection. 

With regard to the first heading, the stones may be divided 
into (a) menhirs, or vertical stones; (b) table-stones, or 
dolmens, and (c) stone cromlechs, or cairns, which serve 
the purpose of ossuaries. Taking the different stones in 



order, the menhirs are large upright stones varying in 

height from 2 or 3 ft. to 12 or 14 ft., but in exceptional 

instances rising to a more considerable elevation, the great 

monolith at Nartiang, in the Jaintia Hills, being 27 ft. high and 

2 ft. thick. A photograph of this stone has been included. 

These menhirs are erected all in one line which nearly always 

consists of an uneven number of stones. Three is the 

commonest number of menhirs, but five together are frequently 

to be found, and there are some instances of seven stones; 

at Laitkor nine stones are standing, an illustration of which 

will be found in this book. The stones are of hewn gneiss 

granite, or sandstone, to be met with in many places in these 

hills. They are rough hewn, and generally taper gradually to 

their tops, which are sometimes neatly rounded off. The tallest 

stone is usually in the middle, and is occasionally ornamented 

with a small stone, through the middle of which a hole has 

been drilled so that it may fit on the top of the other. 

At Nongkrem there is a centre stone with a regularly 

carved top, evidently intended to represent the head of a 

man. At Umstow, some two miles from Cherrapunji by 

the cart road, stood two rows of fine monoliths, each row 

five in number, and standing on either side of the old bridle 

road. All of these stones except one were thrown down by the 

earthquake shock of June, 1897. The centre stone, or mawkni, 

of one of these rows was surmounted by a carved stone 

covering shaped like a hat, but having a rim with indented 

edges, the intention being evidently to represent a crown. This 

stone crown was riveted to the top of the large centre stone. 

All the stones, including the mawkynthei, or dolmen, have 

been very neatly hewn. They appear to be of granite. 

Stones with top coverings or carved heads are however rare. 

In front of the line of menhirs is a large flat table-stone resting 

on stone supports, the top of the uppermost plane being some 

2 to 2 ft. from the ground; this flat stone is sometimes as 

much as a foot or more thick. The largest table-stones are to 

be seen at Nartiang, in the Jaintia Hills, and Laitlyngkot in the 

Khasi Hills. The Laitlyngkot stone measures 28 by 13f ft., 

and that at Nartiang 16 by 14f ft. The Laitlyngkot stone 

is 1 ft, 8 in. thick. Sometimes two table-stones are found 


parallel to one another. The table-stones are always placed 
towards the centre of the group, generally in front of the great 
central menhir. These groups of stones are usually situated 
alongside roads, or close to well-known lines of route, where they 
readily attract the attention of passers-by. They do not neces- 
sarily face in any particular direction, but are to be found 
fronting all points of the compass. There is nothing therefore 
to show that they were erected so as to face the direction of the 
sun-rise, or of any particular planet's. We will now pass 
on to the numerous stone cromlechs which are to be found, fre- 
quently in proximity to the menhirs and table-stones. These 
stone cromlechs contain the bones of the dead, and the menhirs 
and table-stones are intimately connected with them, inasmuch 
as memorial stones to deceased ancestors are erected when the 
ceremony of depositing bones in the cineraria has been 
completed. The cineraria are built of blocks of stone, 
sometimes on stone platforms, and sometimes resting on 
the ground. They are frequently of considerable size. The 
cromlech is opened by removing one of the heavy stone slabs 
in front. There are no windows such as are to be seen in some 
of the illustrations of dolmens or cromlechs in France and Cir- 
cassia in Waring's book of " Stone Monuments, Tumuli, and 
Ornaments of Remote Ages," probably because the Khasi 
idea was to confine the spirits and not allow them to 
escape from the tomb and haunt the living. The crom- 
lechs are generally square or oblong, but are sometimes 
circular in shape also. Let us now compare the Khasi 
menhirs with some to be found in other parts of the 
world. In Lord Avebury's " Prehistoric Times," Fergusson's 
work, and Waring's collection of plates of stone monuments, 
there are numerous illustrations of menhirs and dolmens 
to be found in other parts of the world, which may be 
said to resemble those of the Khasis in appearance ; but this is 
by no means a matter for surprise, for, given like conditions, 
amongst primitive peoples, totally unconnected with one another 
as regards race, and living in countries far remote from one 
another, the results, i.e. the erection of stones as memorials of 
important persons, or events, are probably the same all the 
world over. Waring in his book gives an illustration of several 

L 2 

148 THE KHASIS iv 

lines of stone monuments with two table-stones, either in front 
or in rear according to the position of the photographer or 
draftsman in taking the picture, which would appear to be very 
similar to the lines of menhirs we find in the Khasi Hills. In 
plate XLIL, fig. 6, of Waring's book, are the lines of stones to 
which I refer. They may be said to be almost exactly .similar 
to the lines of Khasi memorial stones, except that the stones 
depicted by Waring have circles or ovals painted on them, which 
are said to signify that certain sacrifices of animals have been 
performed. Now the Khasis perform such sacrifices, but they 
do not mark their performance thus on the stones. Fergusson 
on page 447 of his " Rude Stone Monuments " apparently refers 
to these stones, which are near Belgaum in the Bombay Presi- 
dency, and he is of opinion that " they were dedicated or vowed 
to the spirits of deceased ancestors " ; further it is stated that 
these stones are always in uneven numbers, a striking point of 
similarity to the Khasi stones. We know, for a fact, that the 
Khasi memorial stones were dedicated to the same objects as 
those of the Belgaum stones, i.e. to the worship of ancestors ; 
so that we have not only similarity in appearance, in con- 
formation, and invariable unevenness of number, but identity 
of purpose, if Fergusson's conclusion is correct. It is, 
however, a far cry from Shillong to Belgaum, and it may, 
perhaps, be thought more reasonable if we look for stones nearer 
at hand. Bradley Birt in his interesting book on Chota Nagpur 
has given a photograph of certain Ho memorial stones, which 
would appear to resemble greatly the Khasi menhirs, and if 
his photograph is carefully examined, it will be seen that 
there are in rear of the stones what would seem to be stone 
cairns, very similar in appearance to the Khasi ossuaries. 
The funeral ceremonies of the Hos as described by Bradley 
Birt, viz., the cremation of the body, the collection of the ashes, 
their consignment to a grave, and the offering of food 
to the spirit of the deceased, are similar to those of the 
Khasis. Although not wishing to lay too much stress on 
what may be merely a coincidence, I think that the above 
similarity in death customs is well worth considering with 
regard to the view, based on linguistic affinity, that the Khasis 
and the Ho-Mundas were originally descended from a common 


stock, i.e. the Mon-Khmer or Mon-Anam family, as has been 
postulated by Logan. 

But there are other tribes in Assam which erect memorial 
stones, e.g. the Mikirs and certain Naga tribes. The Mikirs 
erect memorial stones in a line, the taller stone being sometimes 
in the centre, as in the case of the Khasi memorial stones. 
Such stones are set up by the Mikirs only in memory of impor- 
tant personages, such as mauzadars or leading gaonburas (village 
headmen). Besides the standing stones (long-ckong)^ a flat 
stone (long-pah} is also erected in honour of the deceased. 
I understand that the Mikir stones, like the Khasi, are mere 
cenotaphs, the ashes of deceased Mikirs being left at the 
burning places which are generally by the sides of rivers, and 
the memorial stones not being necessarily anywhere near the 
burning grounds. Unlike the Khasis, the Mikirs do not collect 
and carefully keep the bones in stone cairns. Before erecting 
memorial stones, they dig a small tank ; cf. the Khasi custom 
of digging similar tanks (um-Jcoi), before erecting memorial 
stones (maw umkoi), to those of the clan who have died 
unnatural deaths. As with the Khasis, feasts and entertain- 
ments are given when the stones of the Mikirs are erected ; but 
they need not necessarily consist of uneven numbers, it 
appears. It is possible that the Mikirs may have obtained the 
custom of erecting memorial stones from their near neighbours, 
the Khasis. 

Then there is the interesting collection of stones at Willong 
in the Manipur Naga Hills, for a description of which I am 
indebted to the kindness of Colonel Maxwell, the late Political 
Agent and Superintendent of the State. It is said that about 
300 or 400 years ago these stones were erected by the rich men 
of the village as memorials (probably to deceased ancestors). 
It is the custom of the Willong village that any person who 
wishes to erect such a stone should, with the members of his 
family, abstain from food ; but liquor and ginger are allowed 
to them. Having chosen what he thinks is a suitable stone, 
the Naga cuts off a flake of it, returns home, and sleeps on it 
with a view to dreaming of the stone. If his dreams are 
favourable, he brings it in, otherwise not. From the day of the 
selection of the stone, until it is brought in and erected, he 


must fast. Women are taboo to him for the space of one year 
from the date of its erection. The custom of erecting 
memorial stones is not therefore peculiar to the Khasis amongst 
the hill tribes in Assam. An incidental reference should, I 
think, be made to the interesting carved monoliths at Dimapur, 
regarding the meaning of which there has been so much doubt. 
These Dimapur stones are remarkably similar in shape to the 
carved wooden kima posts of the Garos, another hill tribe 
speaking a language which is undoubtedly connected with the 
great Boro group of languages in North Eastern India. The 
Garo kima posts, like the Khasi stones, are erected to com- 
memorate deceased ancestors. Some of the other Naga tribes, 
besides the Willong Nagas, are in the habit of erecting what arc 
called genna stones, a description of which will, we hope, be 
given in a subsequent Naga monograph. The object of the 
erection of such stones is certainly to show reverence to the 
memories of deceased ancestors amongst the Khasis, and Garos, 
and not improbably among the Nagas also. 

It is only with the very greatest difficulty that it has been 
possible to obtain any intelligible information regarding the 
Khasi monoliths. Whether through feelings of delicacy in 
revealing the secrets of their religious system to a foreigner, or 
through ignorance or apathy (there being but few Khasis now- 
adays who observe the ancient ritual), it has been no easy task 
to extract information from people about these stones. As far 
as my information goes at present, I am inclined to classify the 
stones as follows : 

(a) Mawlynti or mawkjat, the stones which are erected to 
serve as seats for the spirits of departed clansfolk on their way 
to the tomb of the clan, i.e. when their remains are carried by 
their relations to the clan cromlech (see the section entitled 
" The Disposal of the Dead "). 

(6) Mawbynna, or mawnam, which are stones erected to com- 
memorate a parent or some other near relation. 

(c) Maw-umkoi, which are put up to mark the position of 
tanks or umkoi, the water of which is supposed to cleanse the 
ashes and bones of those who have died unnatural deaths. 

(d) Maw-shongthait, or flat table-stones, often accompanied by 
vertical stones, which are placed in the market-places and by 


the side of roads to serve as seats for weary travellers. 
Taking the above main divisions seriatim, mawlynti, or mawkjat, 
may be described as follows. These generally consist of three 
upright stones, the tallest being in the centre, and a flat table- 
stone being placed in front. There are, however, some clans 
which erect more than three upright stones, as mawlynti or 
mawkjat. As already stated, the clansfolk used to erect these 
stones, mawlynti (the stone of the way), or mawkjat (the stone 
of the leg), at each place at which they halted for the night 
on their way to deposit the bones of their deceased maternal 
relations in the clan sepulchre, or mawbah. The stones are 
called mawkjat, or stones of the leg, because it is supposed 
that the spirits of the departed sit and rest their limbs 
on the flat table-stones. The upright stones are not as a 
rule more than 3 or 4 ft. high, and are not massive like the 
great mawbynna, or memorial stones. They are to be found in 
great numbers all along the roads or paths which lead to the 
clan cromlechs. These stones, unlike the mawbynna, have no 

(&) Mawbynna, or mawnam, are erected to commemorate 
deceased parents or deceased ancestors, and consist of 3, 5, 7, 9, 
or even, in an exceptional case, 11 upright stones with flat table- 
stones in front. The upright stones are called maw-shynrang, 
or male stones, and the flat table-stones maw-kynthei, or female 
stones. Turning to the plate of the Laitkor stones, it will be 
observed that there are nine upright stones, and one large flat 
table-stone in front. Counting from right to left, stone No. 5 is 
called u maw kni, or the maternal uncle's stone, and the stones 
to the right and left of it, ki maw pyrsa ki para, i.e. the stones 
of the maternal brothers and nephews. The table-stone is 
called ka lawbei tynrai, or ka lawbei tymmen, literally the grand- 
mother of the root, or the old grandmother, in contradistinction 
to ka lawbei khynraw, or ka lawbei kpoh (the grandmother of the 
family, or branch of the family). It frequently happens that 
there are two flat table-stones in front of the upright stones, the 
one on the left being ka lawbei tynrai, or the first ancestress, 
and the one on the right ka lawbei longkpoh, the grand- 
mother of the branch of the clan to which the memorialists 
belong, or ka lawbei khynraw, the young grandmother, i,e, 

152 THE KHASIS iv 

the grandmother of the actual family to which the memorialists 
belong. In olden days it used to be the custom for the clans- 
people to place offerings of food on the flat table-stones for the 
shades of the departed ancestors, and this is sometimes the 
case still ; but low it is more frequently the custom to 
make these offerings in the iing-seng, or clan puja-house. The 
flat table-stones are some 2 to 2J ft. from the ground, and it is 
difficult to resist the impression that they were originally sacri- 
ficial stones, i.e. that animals or even human beings were actually 
sacrificed upon them. In connection with this theory I would 
refer to the interesting folk-tale about the Kopili River. It is 
here related that in olden days human victims were sacrificed 
to the Kopili goddess on the flat table-stone (maw-kynthei} at a 
place called lew Ksih, close to the Kopili River. A careful 
search has been made for this stone, with the result that a flat 
table-stone has been found near the above village, where goats 
are still annually sacrificed to the Kopili. The doloi 
reports that this is an ancient custom. None can remember, 
however, having heard that human victims were ever sacrificed 
there. Yet I do not think it at all unlikely that this is the 
stone, locally called Mynlep, which is referred to in the 
folk-tale. At Jaintiapur and Nartiang, both of which places 
were the headquarters of the kings of Jaintia, there are very 
large table-stones. We know for a fact that human sacrifices 
used to take place at Jaintiapur. Is it possible that human 
beings were immolated on these table-stones ? It would 
be unsafe to base any conclusion on the solitary folk- tale, 
about the lew Ksih table-stone ; but the tale certainly 
furnishes food for reflection. The Khasis borrowed their 
religious customs largely from the Synteng inhabitants of 
Jaintia, and it is possible that they may have obtained the 
custom of erecting the table-stones from the Syntengs also, 
and that the latter were originally used by both of them for 
sacrificing human victims. Sometimes, immediately on either 
side of the mawkni, or large central stone, there are two much 
smaller stones called mawksing, or the stone of the drum, and 
mawkait, the stone of the plantain ; the drum being used in all 
religious ceremonies by the Khasis, and the plantain relating 
to their custom of feeding young children on plantains. The 


mawnam must be described separately from the mawkynna, 
because they differ from them in an important particular, i.e. 
that the former may be erected to commemorate the father, 
while the latter are set up to perpetuate the memory of the 
ancestors on the female side of the family. Mawnam consist of 
three upright stones and one flat table-stone in front. The 
large central stone is called u maw thawlang, or the stone of the 
father, and the upright stones on either side are meant to 
represent the father's brothers or nephews. The flat table- 
stone is ka lawbei, i.e. the grandmother of the father, not 
the first grandmother of the clan, as in the case of the 

(c) The maw umkoi have already been described. They 
are erected to mark the sites of purificatory tanks, which have 
been dug so that the remains of deceased persons may be 
cleansed from the impurities attending an unnatural death 
and to counteract the adverse influence upon the clan of Ka 
Tyrut or the goddess of death. These stones are sometimes 
called maw ty rut. 

(d) Maw-shongthait, or stones upon which weary travellers 
sit, are to be found alongside all the principal lines of commu- 
nication in the district. It may serve as an example of these 
stones to describe the very interesting collection of stones at 
Nartiang hat, or market. A reference is invited to the plate 
which gives a representation of some of the Nartiang stones. 
The great height of the upright stone will at once be seen ; it is 
27ft. in height and 2| ft. thick. This stone is the largest 
erect stone in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills at the present day, 
and is a very fine specimen. The upright stones and the flat 
table-stones at Nartiang are called " ki maw Jong Siem" There 
is no separate designation for each of them. These stones are 
popularly supposed to have been erected long ago by two men, 
U Lah Laskor and U Mar Phalyngki, to commemorate the 
establishment of Nartiang market, which is called lew Mawlong. 
" Laskor " is the Synteng equivalent of the Khasi lyngskor, or 
prime minister. " Mar " is a Synteng word meaning a giant, 
the idea amongst the people being that in the olden days there 
were giants in the land who performed marvellous feats of 
strength, e.g. the erection of the megalithic remains at Nartiang 

154 THE KHASIS iv 

and elsewhere. A puja is performed upon a great flat stone by 
the doloi and his officers in honour of the founders of the 
market, but no animals are sacrificed, rice and rynsi (balls of 
rice) only being offered. In the days of the Jaintia kings only 
the Raja could sit upon the great flat stone ; hence the name 
maw jong Siem (or Siem's stone). The great upright stone is 
said to have been brought by U Lah Laskor and a great number 
of people from Suriang, a place near Nartiang. With reference 
to the Nartiang stones I would refer to my theory, formu- 
lated above, that they were originally connected with human 
sacrifices. It may be mentioned that at Nartiang there is 
a bridge constructed out of a single stone, which is also 
said to have been set in position by U Lah Laskor. Near 
Suhtnga there is a group of stones, said to have been originally 
thirty in number, together with maw shongthait, or stones to 
seat the weary, which were erected to the memory of a woman, 
Ka Kampatwat, who in generations past is alleged to have had no 
fewer than thirty husbands. The lady is not supposed to have 
been polyandrous, nor nine-lived, but to have divorced one 
husband after another. As she probably established a record 
for divorce, her descendants afterwards commemorated her in 
the manner described. There is another very large stone at 
Nongkseh, which unfortunately fell to the ground in the great 
earthquake shock of 1897. This stone must have stood over 
20 ft. above the ground. It is called u mawkni Siem, the 
stone of the Siem's maternal uncle, and it used to form the 
central stone, or mawkni, of a line of stones. These stones 
belong to the clan of the basans of Nongkseh, which furnishes 
the sohblei, or head sacrificer, of the Siems of Khyrim. The 
stones at Mawsmai, which in ancient days used to be the head- 
quarters of a Siem, are some of the best carved in the hills, 
At Mawrongjong, in the Jaintia sub-division, is a stone upon 
which a figure, evidently of a Hindu god, has been carved, without 
doubt after the erection of the stone. Here we have a striking 
parallel case to the painted and carved menhir near Tregastel 
in Brittany, upon which has been carved the representation o\ 
a crucifix. There are also some carved stones near Nartiang 
(said to represent two women) called mawthawdur briew. 

The Khasis say that these great stones were brought 

From a photograph by the Author* 


sometimes from considerable distances. After being hewn, 
the stones were laid on large wooden trolleys and dragged 
across country by means of ropes of cane, of which plenty 
can be had from the War country on the southern side of 
the district, and then placed in position by means of ropes 
and levers. It seems little short of marvellous that 
these stones, which sometimes weighed many tons, were 
placed in position by such primitive means, especially when 
we consider the great trouble there was to re-erect one of 
the fallen stones at Stonehenge lately. Nowadays compara- 
tively small stones only are erected, which are generally hewn 
and erected on the spot, so that there is no necessity for any 

In conclusion, it may be remarked that the subject of the 
Khasi monoliths is in reality a large one, on which a great deal 
could be written, but owing to considerations of space it 
has been found necessary to compress the account within its 
present limits. 


Dancing forms the principal part of all the Khasi festivities, 
and is an important adjunct of some of their religious 
ceremonies. One of the greatest festivals in the Khasi Hills is 
the Nongkrem dance; it may be said to be as important 
an event to the Khasis as the Beh dieng-khlam festivities are to 
the Syntengs. 

The Nongkrem dance is really part of what is known as the 
pom-Uang, or goat-killing ceremony, performed by the Siem of 
Khyrim (or Nongkrem) with the aid of his soh-Uei (high priest) 
and the various lyngdolis (or priests) to Ka Blei Synshar (the 
ruling goddess), that the crops may prosper and that there may 
be a successful era in store for the people of the State. The 
goddess on this occasion may be regarded as a Khasi Demeter, 
although no mysteries form part of her services as at the 
Grecian Eleusis. The Nongkrem ceremony and dance (now 
held at Smit) take place in the late spring, generally 
in the month of May. A lucky day having been fixed, the 
Siem sends a ring of cane (kyrwoK) by way of a summons to 


the people of every village in the State, at the same time in- 
forming them of the date of the puja, and requesting them to 
attend with their offerings, consisting of goats and different 
articles of food. In the meantime various pujas have been 
taking place in the house of Ka Siem Sad, the Siem priestess, 
which it would be tedious to describe in detail. The more 
interesting points only will be mentioned. A fortnight before 
the puja and dance at Smit the soh-Uei, or high priest, pours 
out libations of liquor in the kyram-blang, or place where the 
sacrificial goats are kept, and in front of the great post (of dieng 
suing, or Khasi oak), in the house of the Siem priestess. Danc- 
ing then takes place in front of the post. Later on the Siem, 
with the high priest and other attendant priests, walks with 
extremely slow gait to a small hill where a stone altar has been 
prepared, and sacrifices a cock in honour of ulei Shillong, or 
the god of the Shillong Peak. A silver dish with powdered 
rice, liquor in a gourd (ka'iad um), betel-nut, and some leaves 
of the Khasi oak (dieng sning), are also necessary adjuncts of the 
puja. A goat is then sacrificed, and the sacrifice is followed by a 
dance of twenty-two men armed with swords and shields and 
chowries (fly-flaps). Having danced before the altar, the party 
returns to the house of the Siem priestess and executes another 
dance in the great courtyard. The Siem and certain selected 
persons dance in front of the rishot blei, or holy post 
of Khasi oak inside the house of the Siem priestess, the 
dancers being entertained with dried fish and ginger. Then 
follows the great dance of girls and men in front of her 
house. The girls dance in the centre, taking such tiny 
steps, that the lifting of their feet from the ground is hardly 
perceptible, the arms held down to the sides and the eyes 
demurely downcast. It is on this occasion that they wear the 
peculiar silver (and sometimes gold) crowns illustrated in the 
plate. The hair is worn tied in a knot behind the head, but with 
a long tail hanging down the back. Rich silk cloths are worn 
by the girls, who present the appearance of being, if anything, 
over-clothed, or, as Yule aptly puts it, of " perfect parallelo- 
grams." They wear a profusion of gold and coral bead 
necklaces, silver and gold chains, bracelets, ear-rings of gold 
and any other jewellery they can lay hands on. Not only 


From a drawing by Miss Eirene Scott O'Connor 


is the whole of the family jewellery requisitioned by the fair 
debutante (it is only the unmarried girls who dance), but she 
borrows from her friends. The men dance round the outside of 
the circle, waving fly-flaps and prancing (often nowadays wear- 
ing huge boots) with ungainly strides. The music necessary 
for the dance consists of tangmuri (pipes), drums, and cymbals. 
This is ka shad kynthei, or the dance of the women. Then there 
is 1m shad mastieh, or the dance of the men, who are gaily 
dressed, wearing plumes of black and white cock's feathers 
(u thuiyah) and holding swords and shields. After gyrating 
for some time, two men at a time rapidly approach one another 
and clash their swords together in mock combat. They then 
retire, and, after again revolving for a period, repeat the process ; 
then other couples follow and take their place. This goes on 
until the dancers get tired or are told to stop. 

The above description may be taken as applicable to all 
the Khasi dances. Dancing forms part of the ceremony 
of placing the ashes in the sepulchre of the clan. Dancing also 
forms a part of certain ceremonies performed at markets for 
the prosperity of the State and for the good of trade. 

When I was at Mawsynram, at the time of the appointment 
of a Siem, I witnessed a very pretty dance called ka shad 
lymmoh, performed by men who held the leafy branches 
of trees in their hands. This is most effective. Then 
followed a dance of some forty young girls, very well dressed, 
covered with the usual gold and coral beads and silver chains, 
and wearing the silver crown, or pansngiat. The young women 
danced with great spirit, and with an absence of all shyness, but 
still with the greatest decorum. Many of the women, spectators 
as well as dancers, were observed to be without the usual tap 
moh khlih, or head-cloth, the absence of which is always a sign 
amongst the Khasi women of merry-making. There were 
women from the Wdr country, wearing their picturesque dress, 
amongst whom was the wife of the Siem of Bohwal with her 
little daughter. The dance was a pretty sight, and I have 
seldom seen such evidence of unaffected happiness as was 
exhibited by the people on this occasion. Dancing may 
be described as one of the characteristic features of Khasi 

158 THE KHASIS iv 

The Synteng Eeh-dieng-khlam festival takes place annually 
at Jowai and elsewhere in the Jaintia Hills in the deep water 
moon month (u Jyllieu, or June). Khlam is the Khasi word 
for plague or pestilence, and leh-dieng signifies to drive away 
with sticks. The festival may be described as follows: The 
males rise betimes on the day fixed and beat the roof with 
sticks, calling upon the plague-demon to leave the house. 
Having done this, later on in the day they go down to the 
stream where the goddess "Aitan" dwells. Then poles of 
great length, which have been newly cut, are held across the 
stream. The people jump on the poles and try to break them ; 
when they succeed in doing so, a great shout is given. After all 
these poles have been broken, a very large pole is fixed across the 
stream. The people then divide themselves into two parties 
and contend for the possession of the tree. The contest, how- 
ever, is a good-humoured one, and although many buffets are 
given and received, these are not regarded seriously, and there 
are seldom any fights. Col. Bivar says the contending villagers, 
in their excitement, sometimes relapse into a state of almost 
complete nudity. The party which succeeds in obtaining 
possession of this post is supposed to gain health and prosperity 
during the coming year. Col. Bivar remarks that the origin 
of this so-called ceremony is said to be that the god of thunder, 
" ic lei pyrthat" and Ka Aitan, the goddess of the stream, 
enjoined its performance. Many innovations, however, have 
crept in. People disguise themselves as giants and wild beasts, 
they also parade images of serpents, elephants, tigers, peacocks, 
&c. Dancing is carried on with enthusiasm by the males, the 
girls, clad in their best attire, remaining on -lookers. Before 
the meeting breaks up the males play a sort of game of hockey 
with wooden balls. 


The word genna is one in common use amongst the Naga 
tribes. It seems to be a matter of doubt whether the word 
belongs to any of the numerous languages or dialects spoken 
by these tribes; but for our purposes it may be taken to 
mean taboo. The Khasi word sang, which implies an interdic- 

iv GENNA 159 

tion either religious or social from doing any particular thing, 
might have been employed ; but as the word genna is so com- 
monly used when speaking of taboos amongst the hill tribes of 
this province, I have thought fit to employ it here. The word 
genna, or taboo, may be held to include the Khasi sang. Taboos 
amongst the Khasis, Wars, and Lynngams may be divided into 
two sections ; (a) general, and (6) special. Instances of general 
taboo have not been found amongst the Khasis, but the follow- 
ing taboo called Ka sang Ma amongst the War villages of 
Sohbar and Nongjri is peculiar, and therefore worthy of descrip- 
tion. Its chief peculiarity is that during the time the sang Ha 
continues, the inhabitants of these two villages are not allowed 
to associate with foreigners. This genna takes place twice a 
year, in the months of June and November, and lasts for a month 
each time. During the genna foreigners are not allowed to stay 
the night in these two villages, and the villagers must not sleep 
the night outside their villages. If they do not return home 
for the night, they are subjected to a fine. There is a prohibition 
against eating, smoking, or chewing betel-nut with foreigners 
during the period. The above is the only instance of general 
taboo that I have been able to find amongst the W&rs, but in 
the Lynngam villages there is a taboo on all outsiders at the 
time of the village pujas. Such a taboo amongst the Lynngams 
is not to be wondered at, as they have probably imbibed the 
notion from their Garo mothers, intermarriages between 
Lynngams and Garos being common. The Garos, like other 
Thibeto-Burmans, have numerous taboos. There are numerous 
instances of special taboos among the Khasis. Kdba 
shong sang, or marrying within the kur or clan, is the 
most important taboo of all, and is regarded as the most 
serious offence a Khasi can commit. It admits of no 
expiation, and the bones arid ashes of the offender cannot 
be placed in the family tomb. There are special taboos 
for certain clans, of which the following are some examples. 
The clan Nongtathiang cannot eat the lemon, the Khar-umnuid 
clan must abstain from pork, the Cherra Siem family cannot 
eat dried fish, and the Siem family of Mylliem taboo the 
pumpkin. Possibly these taboos may be relics of totemism 
amongst the communities. The following are some of the 

160 THE KHASIS iv 

other taboos, although some of them are but lightly regarded 
nowadays : 

(i.) To build a house with stone walls on all four sides, 
(ii.) To use nails in building a house, 
(iii.) To use more than one kind of timber in building the 

(iv.) To build a house with resinous timber. Only the 

Siem family can use such timber, 
(v.) To cut trees from a sacred forest. 
(vi.) To take or give anything with the left hand, 
(vii.) To step over anyone's body, 
(viii.) To kill any animal or bird without first throwing rice 

over its body. 

(ix.) To drink the milk of a cow or goat. 
(x.) To talk with anyone, except with one of a man's or 
woman's fellow-workers, when the thrashing of paddy 
is going on. 

There are the following special taboos for pregnant women. 

(a) To accompany a funeral procession. 

(/>) To finish any sewing she may have commenced before 

she became enceinte. There is a similar prohibition 

regarding the finishing of the plaiting of wicker 

(r;) It is sang for the husband of a pregnant woman to 

thatch the ridge of the house at such a time, or to fix a 

handle to an axe or a dao. 



THE Khasis possess a considerable amount of folk-lore. The 
tales which will be found reproduced in the original Khasi have 
been obtained from a collection which was in the possession of 
the Rev. Dr. Roberts, of Cherrapunji, who very kindly placed 
it at my disposal. The translations are by U Nissor Singh, 
Sub-Inspector of Schools, and the author of a Khasi English 
Dictionary as well as certain other educational works in that 
language. Dr. Roberta's collections would fill a book ; so I have 
selected only a few of what I consider typical tales. At the 
instance of Sir Charles Lyall, I have given the Khasi and 
English side by side. The stories will speak for themselves, 
but I add a few explanatory notes. The water-fall of Ka Likai 
is a magnificent cascade in the rainy season ; it can best be 
viewed from the heights of Laitkynsew. The water-fall is 
situated close to the village of Nongriat, which is approached 
by a succession of stone steps from the village of Tyrna, just 
below the Cherrapunji Laitkynsew bridle-path. " Dingiei," 
which is mentioned in the second tale, is the high hill to be 
seen on the right-hand side of the Shil long- Cherrapunji road 
soon after leaving Shillong. The highest point of the range is 
over 6,000 ft. The third tale contains the well-known story of 
Ka Pah Syntiew, the fabled ancestress of the Khyrim and 
Mylliem Siem families. The cave where Ka Pah Syntiew is 
said to have made her abode is still to be seen in the neighbour- 
hood of Nongkrem. The story of the origin of the Siems of 

161 M 


Suhtnga, who* afterwards became the Rajas of Jaintiapur, is a 
well-known tale in the Jaintia Hills. A description of the 
wonderful mass of granite known by the name of the Kyllang 
Rock will be found in the section of the Monograph which 
deals with geographical distribution. I have . also added a 
photograph of the rock. The Syntengs have a story that 
when the strong west wind blows in the spring this is due to 
the advent of U Kyllang, who comes to visit his wife, the river 
Umngot, at that season: amongst the Khasis hills are all of 
them masculine, but to rivers is usually attributed the feminine 
gender. U Symper is another isolated rocky eminence rising 
from the Maharam plain close to the village of K'mawan. The 
best view of the hill is obtainable from Laitmawsiang on the 
path to Mawsynram. The village of Mawsmai every traveller 
from Therria to Cherrapunji knows. It is chiefly remarkable for 
a fairly large limestone cave, and its fine memorial stones. The 
Khasi theory to explain how the moon got its spots is, I believe, 
original, but is no more extraordinary than our own nursery 
tale about the "man in the moon." The Sohpet Byneng hill 
is the first hill of any size that the traveller sees on the Gauhati 
road when journeying to Shillong. It is close to Umsning Dak 
Bungalow. There are caves in the hill which are tenanted by 
bears. Strange to say, according to Khasi ideas, this is one of the 
highest points in the hills; in reality Sophet Byneng is some 
2,000 ft. lower than the Shillong peak. As mentioned elsewhere 
the Khasis are very fond of dogs ; so I have given their version of 
how the dog came to live with man. The well-known thlen 
superstition will be found fully described under the heading of 
" Human Sacrifices." I have thought, however, the tale of suffi- 
cient interest to reproduce at length here. The story of the river 
Rupatylli is a pretty tale, and is just such a one as would 
appeal to the imagination of mountaineers like the Khasis. 
The Kopili story is important, in that it indicates the origin of 
human sacrifices in the Jaintia Hills ; it also throws, perhaps, 
some light on the question of the use to which the flat table me- 
morial stones were put in years gone by. The superstition about 
the crossing of the Kopili can be vouched for by many who 
have taken the journey from the Jaintia Hills to North Cachar 
by the Kopili route. Mawpunkyrtiang is a small village close 



to Cherrapunji. The weird tale about the Siem of Malyniang 
is the pride of the Maskut people, for in olden days their King, 
i.e. the Siem of Malyniang, is supposed to have been a very 
powerful monarch amongst the Khasis. The story of Manick 
Raitong is interesting, in that it explains the origin of the use 
of the shdrdti, a bamboo flute of special make which is played 
only at funerals. The pool of water, which was formed after U 
Manick and the erring queen were burnt, may be connected 
with the umkoi, or tank, which is dug to cleanse the souls of 
those who have died violent deaths. The idea of the bamboo, 
which bore leaves that grew upside-down, springing up from the 
buried flute, is also to be found in the Synteng tale regarding 
U Loh Ryndi's fishing-rod. Owing to considerations of space, 
I have had to curtail largely this folk-lore section. 


The water-fall of Ka Likai is 
one of the most beautiful water- 
falls in the Khasi hills. Its 
stream flows from a certain 
river from the village of Rang- 
jirteh and passes by the village 
of Nongriat. The fall can be 
seen distinctly from the village 
of Laitkynsew. What a beauti- 
ful fall it is when viewed in the 
autumn. It is also a very high 
fall. There was in olden days 
in the village of Rangjirteh a 
woman called Ka Likai. She 
was a poor woman who had 
a husband. When she had 
given birth to a child, the hus- 
band died. Whilst the child 
was yet a baby, she experienced 
much trouble in taking care of 
it on account of her poverty. 
After the child was able to walk, 
what a pleasure it was to 
her to see it growing, and able 
to play with other children. 
Then that woman married 
another man; but he did not 
love the little child, and many a 


Ka kshaid-ka-Likai ka long 
kawei ka kshaid ha ri Khasi 
kaba itynnad shibun eh. Ka 
wan tuid na kawei ka wah ha 
ka shnong Rangjirteh kaba wan 
hap ha ka shnong Nongriat. 
la kane ka kshdid Jah ban ioh-i 
bha na ka snnong Laitkynsew. 
Katno ka long kaba i-tynnad 
lada khmih ia ka ha ka por 
synrai. Ka long ruh kaba 
jrong shibun eh. La don kawei 
ka briew ha ka shnong Rang- 
jirteh hyndai kaba kyrteng ka 
Likai. Kane ka briew ka long 
kaba duk bad ka la don u tnga, 
te ynda la kha iwei i khun kyn- 
thei uta u tnga u la iap noh. 
Hamar ka por ba dang lung ita 
i khun ka la shitom shibun ban 
sumar ha ka jinglong duk jong 
ka. Te ynda i la nangiaid 
katno, ka la sngewbha ban ioh-i 
ia la i khun ba i la shait, bad ba 
i la nang ba'n leh kai bad ki 
para khynnah. Te kane ka 
briew ka la shongkurim bad 
uwei pat u briew ; hynrei uta 

M 2 



time he got angry because she 
could not take care of him more, 
on account of that child. 

One day when she went to 
carry iron ore, her husband took 
the child and killed it. When 
he had cut up the body into 
pieces, he prepared curry with 
it, and placed the curry where 
the mother would come and eat 
it. When he had finished doing 
so, he threw the head and the 
bones of the child far away, 
but he forgot to throw away 
the fingers, which he had 
placed in a basket where the 
betel-nut was kept. When the 
mother returned from her jour- 
ney, she inquired " Where is 
the child?" "She has just 
gone somewhere, I don't know 
where, " he said. She remained 
silent awhile ; then she said, 
"Is there any rice and curry 1" 
He said " Yes, it is ready," and 
went out at the same time. 
When she ate, she found the 
curry very tasty, and she 
thought that he had got the 
flesh of a young pig from some 
one who had performed a sacri- 
fice. When she had finished 
eating, she took up the betel- 
nut basket, but found the 
fingers of her child there. She 
shrieked and threw herself down, 
and then ran to the precipice 
and cast herself down it. All 
the villagers wondered, but no 
one ventured to prevent her as 
she held a da in her hand. 
From that time the waterfall 
was called the "Fall of Ka 


Dingiei Hill is one of the 
highest peaks in the Khasi 

u'm ieit ia ita i khiin, bad katno 
ba u la jiw sngew bitar ba ka'm 
lah ban khreh ba'n sumar ia u 
na ka bynta ita i khiin. 

Te ha kawei ka sngi ba ka 
Ieit kit nongnar,- uta u tnga u 
la shim ia ita i khiin bad u la 
pyniap noh. Bad haba u la ot 
u la shet jintah ia ka doh Jong 
i, u la buh ruh ha ka jaka ba 
ka'n wan bam ka kmie; bad 
ynda u la dep kumta boroh u la 
Ieit bred noh ia ka khlih bad ki 
shyieng sha jngai, hynrei ia ki 
shimpriahti ba u la buh ha ka 
shang kwai u'm kynmaw shuh 
ban Ieit bred. Haba la wan ka 
kmie na kata ka jingleit ka la 
kylli, "hangno ka khun " ? 
"Tip ei, u ong, shano ka Ieit 
kai myntan." Ka shu sngap 
noh bad ka ong "La don ja 
don jintah ne em" u ong, "la 
don," bad hamar kata ka por u 
Ieit kai noh. Te haba ka la 
bam ja, ka sngew bang shibiin, 
bad ka la tharai ba u ioh doh 
khiin sniang na kino-kino kiba 
knia, bad haba ka la lah bam 
ja ka la shim ka shang kwai 
ba'n bam kwai, ka shem pynban 
da ki shimpriahti ita i khiin bad 
ka la lyniar la lympat ia lade 
kat ba lah, bad ka la mareh sha 
katei ka riat bad ka la pynnoh 
ia lade. Kumta lyngngoh ki 
shnong-ki-thaw baroh bad y'm 
lah ba'n khang mano-mano ruh, 
ka bat la ka wait ha ka kti. 
Te nadiih kata ka por ki khot 
" ka kshaid-noh-ka-Likai." 


U lum Dingiei u long u wei 
u liim uba jrong shibiin ha ri 



country, resembling in height 
and size the Shillong " Peak " 
which lies opposite and to the 
north of it. There are many 
villages on this hill belonging 
to the Shillong Siem. In olden 
days on the top of this hill 
grew a gigantic tree over- 
shadowing the whole world, 
the name of that tree was "ka 
Dingiei." The Khasis came to 
a determination that if this 
tree were cut down (lit. de- 
stroyed) the world would be- 
come good and would have 
light, for as long as it (the 
tree) remained standing, the 
world remained dark and un- 
fruitful. They accordingly 
came to an unanimous decision 
to fell it. When they cut (the 
tree) during the day and went 
back next morning, they found 
that the marks of cutting had 
been obliterated. Thus they 
cut each day, and next morn- 
ing they found that the marks 
had disappeared. This was the 
case always. Then they mar- 
velled why this thing was thus. 
They asked questions and they 
investigated ; ka phreid (a 
very small .bird) said "all this 
has happened because a tiger 
comes every night to (the foot 
of) the tree and licks the part 
of the tree which has been cut." 
Thereupon the men, having 
plied their axes and knives the 
whole day in cutting the tree 
(instead of carrying them away 
as usual), tied them to the in- 
cisions, with their edges point- 
ing outwards. So when the 
tiger went as usual at night 
to lick the incisions, the sharp 
blades of the axes and knives 
cut his tongue. Thenceforth 

Khasi. U syiim ha ka jirig 
jrong bad jingkhraw ia u him 
Shillong, bad u long marpyr- 
shah Jong u shaphang Shatei. 
Halor une u him don bun ki 
shnong hapoh u Siem Shillong. 
Mynhyndai halor une u liim 
don kawei ka dieng kaba khraw 
shibiin eh haduh ba ka la kah 
dum ia ka pyrthei bar oh kawei 
ka kyrteng kata ka dieng ki 
khot ka Dingiei. Ki khun 
Khasi ki la ia kut jingmut ba 
lada yn ioh pynduh noh ia 
kane ka dieng ka'n bha ka'n 
shai ka pyrthei, namar katba 
ka dang ieng, ka pyrthei ka 
dum bad ka'm lah ban seisoh. 
Kumta ki la ia ieng da kawei 
ka jingmut ba'n ia khet noh ia 
ka. Te ynda ki la pom ia ka 
mynsngi, ki leit pat mynstep 
ki shem ba la dam noh ka dien 
pom. Kumta ki pom biang sa 
ha kawei ka sngi, ynda lashai 
mynstep ka dam-pa-dam biang. 
Shu kumta barabor ka long. 
Hangta ki la lyngngoh, hato 
balei ka long kumne. Ki ia 
kylli ki ia tohkit ; ong ka 
phreid (ka sim kaba rit shibun) 
"kane ka jinglong ba dam 
kumne haba phi la pom ka 
long namar u khla mynmiet 
mynmiet u wan jliah ia ka 
dien ba phi la pom." Te 
kumta ki khun bynriew ynda 
ki la lah pom mynsngi baroh shi 
sngi, mynmiet ki teh pyn-ang 
da ki wait ki sdi ha kata ka 
jaka ba ki la lah pom. Kumta 
u khla haba u wan mynmiet u 
jliah phot u thyllied haba kyn- 
duh ha kita ki syrti wait syrti 
sdi. Kumtah naduh kata ka 
por um wan shiih ; bad ynda 
um ioh shuh ban jliah kata ka 
dien pom u khun bynriew, ruh 



the tiger ceased to go to the 
tree; and as the tiger ceased 
to lick the incisions, the mark 
was not obliterated as before. 
So their work went on pro- 
gressing every day until ka 
Dingiei fell. Thus the world 
received light, and cultivation 
throve, and there was nothing 
more to stand in the way of 
the light of the sun and the 
moon. It was for that reason 
that the name of " U Lum 
Dingiei" was given to the hill. 
Nobody knows what became of 
the tree, for since the time it 
fell its species has died out and 
there is no seed of it (to be 
found) anywhere on the earth 
from which it can be grown. 

kam dam shuh. Shu nangdep 
ka jingtrei man ka sngi haduh 
ba la kyllon ka Dingiei. Kumta 
sa shai pher ka pyrthei bad sa 
manbha ka thung ka tep ka 
rep ka sei ynda ymdon ba shar 
shuh ia ka sngi ia u bnai. Na- 
markata ki sa ioh ban khot 
kyrteng ia une u him " u Liim 
Dingiei." la ka jinglong kane 
ka Dingiei ym don ba tip ei- 
ei nadiih kata ka p6r haduh 
mynta, namar naduh ba la 
kyllon ka iapduh 1 bad ym don 
symbai ba kan pynmih haei- 
haei ha ka pyrthei haduh kane 
ka sngi. 


The Siem of Shillong is a 
very great and powerful chief 
in the Khasi Hills. He is 
generally known throughout 
the Khasi Hills as the "god 
king." By the term "god 
king " is meant that God has 
been pleased to give over to 
him the largest portion of the 
Khasi country, i.e. the kingdom 
of Shillong, to rule. If you 
seek for the origin of these 
" god kings," you will find 
there is great uncertainty about 
it. At any rate there is a 
tradition amongst the Khasis 
to the following effect. In 
olden days a rumour got abroad 
that there was a woman in a 
cave called Marai, which is 
situated near the present village 


U Siem Shillong u long uwei 
u Siem uba khraw shibiin bad 
uba don b6r ruh ha kane ka ri 
lum Khasi. la une u Siern la 
jiw bna baroh kawei ka ri ba u 
long u Siem-Blei. Haba ong 
Siem-Blei ka mut ba U Blei u 
la i mon sngewbha ba'n aiti ha u 
ban synshar ia kawei ka bynta 
kaba khraw ha ri Khasi. Ha 
une la ai ba'n synshar ha ri 
Shillong. Haba wad ia ka 
jingsdang jong kine ki Siem 
Blei don shibiin ka jingb'ym 
thikna. La kumno-kumno ka 
don ka jingiathu-khana kum 
kane kaba harum ha pydeng ki 
Khasi haduh kane ka sngi. 
Ha kaba nyngkong eh la byna 
ba don kawei ka briew ha ka 
krem Marai, kaba hajan ka 

1 lapduh is the regular word used for a clan, and in this case a species 
dying out. 



of Pomlakrai, at the source of 
the river Umiew or Umiam. 
She was a young and very 
beautiful damsel. Of the reality 
of the damsel's existence there is 
no question. Many tried to catch 
her, but they could not, owing 
to the narrowness of the cave. 
There came, however, a certain 
very clever man who went to 
entice her by showing her a 
flower called " u tiew-jalyng- 
kteng." The damsel then came 
(out) near to snatch the flower, 
but the man went on holding 
back his hand until she came 
out into a more open place, 
when he seized her. He then 
brought her to his house and 
carefully tended her, and after- 
wards he married her. That 
damsel was called " Ka Pah 
Syntiew^ the flower-lured one," 
because that man caught her 
by coaxing and enticing her 
with a flower. That man, who 
came from the village of Nong- 
jri in the Bhoi country, was 
called the Nongjri Kongor. 
After she had given birth to 
daughters and sons, she re- 
turned to the same place 
whence she had been captured, 
and from that time forth she 
never came out again, how- 
ever much her husband and 
children called and implored 
her. Her children increased in 
stature and in wisdom, and the 
people hearing of the wonder- 
ful origin of their mother, came 
from all parts of the country 
to look at them. The children 
also were very clever at show- 
ing their humility and good 
manners in the presence of the 
elders. All the people (in re- 
turn) loved them and considered 

shnong Pomlakrai mynta, ha 
tyllong ka wah Umiew ne 
Umiam. Kata ka briew kaba 
dang met samla kaba bha- 
briew shibiin eh. la kaba ka 
don, ka don hangta barabor, 
bad bun ki ia pyrshang ban 
kern ia ka, kim lah namar ka 
long ka krem kaba khim. Te 
ynda la mih uwei u briew uba 
kham sian u la leit khroh ia ka 
da kaba pyni da u syntiew 
uba ki khot u tiew-ja-lyngkteng. 
Kumto katno ka briew ka la 
wan hajan b'an kynieh ia uta u 
syntiew, te uta u briew u nang- 
ring da kaba pynran ia la ka 
kti khyndiat khyndiat hadiih 
k'an da mih ha kaba kham 
kylluid ka jaka, u sa kem ia ka. 
Hangta u la wallam sha la 
ieng, u ri u sumar bha ia ka, 
bad hadien-hadien u la shong- 
kurim ia ka. Te la khot kyr- 
teng ia kata ka briew ka Pah- 
syntiew, namar ba uta u briew 
u ioh kem ia ka da kaba khroh 
ba pah da u syntiew. Uta u 
briew u long uba na Nongjri 
Bhoi, bad ki jiw khot u Kongor 
Nongjri ia u. Te ynda ka la 
kha ki khiin, kynthei bad shyn- 
rang, ka la leit phet sha kajuh 
ka jaka na kaba u la ioh 
kem ia ka, bad nadiih kata 
ka por ka'm wan shuh, la'u 
tnga ki khiin ki leit khot leit 
pyrta katno-katno ruh. Kita 
ki khiin ki la nangshait nang 
sian, bad ki briew ruh, haba ki 
la bna Mr ka jinglong kaba 
phylla ka jong ka kmie jong ki, 
ki la wan khnang na kylleng 
ki jaka ba'n khmih ia kita ki 
khynnah. Te kita ki khynnah 
ki la nang shibiin ba'n leh rit 
ba'n leh don ak6r ha khmat ki 
tymmen briew, ki briew ruh 

1 68 


them to be the children of the 
gods, and did homage to them. 
It occurred to the nobles and 
leaders of the Shillong Raj to 
appoint them Siems because 
(they said) the children had 
been born of a wonderful 
woman, who, it seemed very 
clear, was the daughter of the 
"god Shillong." Therefore 
they gladly decided to appoint 
them Siems in the country of 
Shillong (i.e. the present Khy- 
rim and Mylliem States). The 
children thus became Siems, 
and they were called " Ki Siem- 
Blei" (the god kings) of Shil- 
long. 1 

baroh ki a ieit ia ki bad ki 
tharai ba ki long ki khun Blei. 
Kumta ki la ia ngiih ki la ia 
dem ia kita ki khynnah bad 
hadien kata ka la jia ha ki 
dohmid kiba khraw-batri, ki 
tymmen-ki-san ha ka ri Shill- 
ong ban thung Siem ia ki 
namar ki khynnah ki long kiba 
la wan kha da ka briew kaba 
phylla shibiin, kaba imat eh ba 
ka long ka khun u Blei Shill- 
ong. Te kuinta ki la ia kut da 
ka mon snowbha baroh ba'n 
thung Siem ia ki ha ka hima 
Shillong, bad kunita la long 
Siem kita ki khynnah, ki syn- 
shah bad ki khot ruh ia ki 


The Syntengs give the follow- 
ing explanation of the origin of 
the Siems of Suhtnga. There 
was a man from War Umwi 
named U Loh Ryndi. He 
went one day to fish in the 
Umwi stream. When he had 
caught only pne~fish, he re-^ 
turned home. He roasted ~ the 
fish and placed it on the tyngir 
(a swinging shelf above the 
hearth). He forgot that it was 
there, and did not remember to 
eat it. The next morning he 
went out for a walk to the hill. 
w hen he returned home in the 
evening, he found his house had 
been swept and looked after, and 
that the rice had been cooked.^ 
He was much surprised at this. 
The next day 

the same thing 


Ki Synteng ki batai ia ka 
jinglong tynrai ki Siem Suhtnga 
kumne. La don u wei U War 
Umwi, uba kyrteng U Loh 
Ryndi, uba la Ieit khwai doh- 
kha na ka Wah Umwi ; te 
ynda la ngat tang kata kawei u 
la wan noh sha la ieng. Ynda 
u la syang u la buh noh halor 
tyngir ha ka ruh. Hangta u 
la klet bad um kynmaw shuh 
ban bam ia ka. Kumta ynda 
la-shai mynstep u la Ieit kai pat 
sha lum, te haba u la wan noh 
la jan miet u la shem ia ka iing 
jong u ba la sar la sumar bad 
ka ja ba la ih. Mynkata u la 
lyngngoh shibiin ba ka long 
kumne. Te kum la-shai ka la 
long kumjuh. Ynda ka shu 
dem iailong kumne-pa-kumne la 

1 The Shillong Peak is thought to be the seat of a powerful blei or god, 
who has his abode in the wood close to the top of the " Peak." Another folk- 
tale will be found concerning this god. 



happened. When this state of 
things continued to occur, he 
made a pretence of going for a 
walk to the hill and he called 
his dog. But he concealed 
himself the whole day outside 
the village, and when it was 
time for cooking rice (evening), 
he returned home. When he 
saw that smoke was rising from 
the house, he crept up stealthily 
in order that he might suddenly 
enter the house. Finding a 
woman there, he said, " Who 
art thou ? " She replied, " I am 
Ka Lih Dohkha. I am the 
fish whom thou didst catch and 
forget to eat." She forthwith 
added, "Thou must not let any 
one know. I have many rela- 
tives. Come, let us go and 
fetch them to come here." So 
U Loh Ryndi bade his mother 
take care of the house until his 
return from his journey. They 
went together and arrived at 
the place where he had caught 
her, and she jumped into the 
water and he remained on the 
dry land. After a while she 
returned, bringing with her her 
relatives, but how many of them 
there were is not known. They 
all went to the house of U Loh 
Ryndi. When Ka Lih Dohkha 
began to enter the house, and 
was about to cross the thres- 
hold, she saw a broom which 
his mother had placed on 
the threshold. She therefore 
abruptly turned back with all 
her relatives to the river. 
After that U Loh Ryndi saw in 
a dream that Ka Lih Dohkha 
had gone by the river Umwai 
Khyrwi to a village called 
Suhtnga. (Since that time all 
the fish have left the river up 

bun sin eh, ynda kumta u la leh 
ia lade kum u ban sa leit liim, u 
da ting ia u ksew. Hinrei u la 
rih noh baroh shi sngi harud 
nong, bad ynda la poi ka por 
shet ja u la wan noh sha iing. 
Te mynba u la ioh-i ba la 
tydem ding ha ieng u la syntiat 
bha biang ba un ioh rung 
kynsan bluit hapoh. Hynda 
kumta u la shem ia ka kynthei 
hangta. U la ong ia ka, " Pha 
kaei " ^ Ka la ong ia u, " nga 
long Ka Lih-dohkha, ma, nga 
nga long kata ka dohkha ba me 
la ngat bad me la klet ban bam." 
Ynda kumta ka la ong ia u " me 
wat pyntip iano iano ruh, nga 
don ki kur shibun eh, ngin ia 
leit shaw ia ki ban wan noh 
shane." Kumta U Loh Ryndi 
u la buh ia la ka kmie ban 
sumar ia ka iing tad ynda un 
wan na ka jingleit jong u. 
Ynda ki la ia leit ki la poi ha 
kata ka jaka ba u la ngat ia ka. 
Yrida kumta ka la sid ha ka 
um, u te u nang sah ha ka 
ryngkew. Te la shibit ka la wan 
pat sha u bad ka wallam lem 
bad ka ia ki kur, hinrei ki long 
katno ngut ym lah banong, 
bad ki la leit baroh sha ka iing 
U Loh Ryndi. Te mynba Ka 
Lih Dohkha ka la sydang rung 
ha iing, hamar ba kan sa jam 
ia ka shah ksew ka la ioh-i ia u 
synsar ba la buh ka kmie jong 
u hapoh kata ka shahksew ; 
namarkata ka la kylla din bak 
bad ki kur jong ka sha kata 
ka wall. Hadin kata U Loh 
Ryndi u la phohsniw, u la ioh-i 
ha kata ka jingphohsniw ia Ka 
Lih Dohkha ba ka la leit noh 
sha ka shnong ba ki khot ka 
Suhtnga ha ka Umwai-khyrwi 
(naduh kata la jah noh ki 



to the present day.) He 
accordingly went to angle for 
her in that stream, and when 
he had caught her, he found 
that she looked after him just 
the same as before. After that 
he married Ka Lih Dohkha and 
she bore him twelve daughters 
and a son. When the children 
of U Loh Ryndi and Ka Lih 
Dohkha grew up, both of them 
returned to the stream Umwai 
Khyrwi. It is said that from the 
fishing-rod of U Loh Eyndi, 
which he left on the bank of 
the stream, there grew up 
bamboos, the joints and leaves 
of which grow upside down to 
the present day. 

dohkha ha ka wah Umwi 
haduh mynta). Te u ruh u la 
leit sha kata ka wah ban khwai 
ia ka, bad ynda u la ngat u la 
shem ba ka sumar ia u kumjuh. 
Ynda nangta u. la shongkurim 
bad Ka Lih Dohkha, bad u la 
ioh khun khadar ngut ki kynthei 
uwei u shynrang. Ynda la 
rangbah kita ki khun u Loh 
Ryndi bad Ka Lih Dohkha ki la 
leit noh baroh ar ngut ha kata 
ka Umwai Khyrwi. Te ki ong 
ba na u ryngwiang khwai Jong 
U Loh Ryndi, harud um ba u 
la ieh noh, la long ki shken 
kiba ka mat ka long khongpong 
bad ka sla de kurnjuh jen haduh 


Kyllang is a hill which is 
near the village of Mawnai in 
Khadsawphra, and Symper is a 
hill which is situated in the 
Siemship of Maharam. The 
old folks say that there are 
gods which inhabit these hills, 
which are called U Kyllang 
and U Symper. These gods 
had a quarrel for some reason 
that we mortals do not know. 
They fought by throwing mud 
at one another. After they had 
fought, once or twice, U Kyl- 
lang proved victorious. So U 
Symper, having been humiliated, 
sits quietly in his own place to 
this day, and U Kyllang sits 
very proudly because he was 
victorious in the fight. The 
holes which are like tanks in 
U Symper's sides remain to 


U Kyllang u long u him uba 
hajan ka shnong Mawnai ha 
Khadsawphra bad U Symper u 
dei u him uba long ha ri Ma- 
haram. Ha kine ki him ki 
tymmen ki jiw tharai ba don 
ki blei kiba shong hangto kiba 
kyrteng U Kyllang bad U Sym- 
per. Kine ki blei baroh ar 
ngut ki la ia kajia namar kano 
kano ka daw kaba ngi u byn- 
riw ngim lah ban tip. Te ki 
la ialeh baroh ar ngut da kaba 
ia khawoh ktih. Ynda ki la 
ialeh shi por ar por jop U 
Kyllang. Kumta U Symper u 
shong pynrit ia lade ha la ka 
jaka jar-jar haduh mynta, bad 
U Kyllang u shong da kaba 
sngew khraw sngew sarong 
shibiin ba u la jop ha ka jing- 
ialeh. Ki thliw kiba long kum 

1 Another version is that it was U Kyrphei, another hill in Nongspung 
territory, who fought with U Symper. 



this day : it is said that U 
Kyllang made those holes during 
the battle. 

ki pukri kiba don ha ki krung 
u lum Symper ki sah haduh 
mynta ; ki ong ba la pynlong ia 
kito ki thh'w da U Kyllang ha 
ka por ialeh. 


On the outskirts of Mawsmai 
village, and to the west of it, 
stands a hill ; it is a very 
beautiful hill. From a distance 
it looks like the hump of a bull. 
It has big trees growing on it, 
as people are afraid to cut 
them because they believe that 
the god " Kyngkew " is there, 
who takes care of and protects 
the country. This hill has two 
names, U Mawlong Siem and 
U Lyngkrem. U Mawlong 
Siem is the smaller (peak) on 
the southern side, and U 
Lyngkrem the taller one, in 
which there is a cave. The 
Mawsmai people sacrifice once 
or twice a year according to 
the god's demand. The Maw- 
smai people have, besides U 
Mawlong Siem, other village 
gods (called "Ryngkew"). 
The name of the one is " U 
Rangjadong," and the name of 
the other " U Ramsong." Sacri- 
fices are offered to these two 
also. U Mawlong Siem is a 
very great and stern god. The 
other gods dare not engage in 
battle with him. He has a 
daughter called " Ka Khmat 
Kharai " (i.e. the mouth of the 
abyss). The god of the Um- 
wai people fell in love with 
this daughter, but he was un- 
able to obtain her in marriage, 
as U Mawlong Siem did not 


Hariid 'nong Mawsmai don 
u wei * u liim uba shaphang 
sepngi na ka shnong. Une u 
liim uba i-tynnad shibiin. Ban 
khymih na sha jingngai u long 
kum u syntai masi kyrtong. U 
don ki dieng kiba khraw ki b^m 
jiw don ba mid ban thoh ban 
daifi namar ba ki mew ba u 
long U Ryngkew u blei uba 
sumar uba da ia ka muluk ka 
jaka. la une u lum ki khot ar 
kyrteng, U Mawlong Siem bad 
U Lyngkrem, U Mawlong Siem 
u long uta uba kham lyngkot 
shaphang shathi, bad U Lyng- 
krem u long uta uba jerong eh 
bad uba don ka krem Pubon 
hapoh. la une U Mawlong 
Siem ki Mawsmai ki jiw ai 
jingknia da u blang shisin shi 
snem ne shi sin ar snem katba 
u pan. Ki Mawmluh ruh ki 
leh kumjuh na la shnong. 
Nalor une U Mawlong Siem ki 
Mawsmai ki don shuh ki Ryng- 
kew hajan shgong, uwei U 
Rangjadong bad uwei pat U 
Ramsong. Ia kine ki knia. 
Une U Mawlong Siem u long u 
blei uba khraw shibiin bad uba 
eh. Ki para blei kim mid ban 
ia leh thyma ia ki. U don 
kawei ka khiin kaba kyrteng 
"Ka Khymat Kharai," u blei 
ki Umwai u i-bha ia ka, hinrei 
urn lah poi namar U Mawlong 
Siem um sngewbha ia u. Ban 



like him. It is not possible to 
know the exact reason why the 
name of U Mawlong Siem was 
given to him, but at any rate it 
appears that the name arose 
from the fact that in olden days 
before the death of a Siem there 
used to be heard at " Mawlong 
Siem " a great noise of beating 
of drums. The Mawsmai and 
the Mawmluh people used to 
hear it, and they attributed it 
to the god " Mawlong Siem/' 
who beat the drum for his 
children to dance to. At any 
rate, when this sound is heard, 
it never fails to portend the 
death of a Siem. It appears 
that this hill was called " Maw- 
long Siem " for that reason. 

tip thikna ia ka daw balei ba 
knot kyrteng Mawlong Siem ia 
u ym lah ban tip; hinrei la 
kumno kumno i-mat ba kane ka 
kyrteng ka la mih namar ba 
mynhyndai haba yn sa iap 
Siem la jiw ioh sngew hangta 
ha U Mawlong Siem ba don ka 
jingsawa tern ksing kaba khraw 
shibun. Ki Mawsmai bad ki 
Mawmluh ki jiw ioh sngew, 
bad ki jiw tharai ba u blei 
Mawlong Siem u tern ksing ban 
pynshad khiin. Lei lei haba la 
ioh sngew kum kata ka jing- 
sawa yra jiw pep ia ka ban iap 
Siem, bad i-mat ba na kata ka 
daw la khot kyrteng ia une u 
lum Mawlong Siem. 



In olden days there was a 
woman who had four children, 
three girls and one boy. Their 
names were these, Ka Sngi 
(sun), Ka Urn (water), Ka Ding 
(fire), and U Bynai (moon). 
These four children belonged to 
rich gentle folk. The Moon was 
a wicked young man, for he 
began to make love to his elder 
sister, Ka Sngi. In the be- 
ginning the Moon was as bright 
as the Sun. When the Sun 
became aware of his bad in- 
tentions, she was very angry. 
She took some ashes in her 
hand and said to him, "do you 
harbour such an incestuous 
and wicked intention against 
me, your elder sister, who has 
taken care of you and held you 
in her arms, and carried you on 


La don kawei ka briew myn- 
hyndai kaba don saw ngut ki 
khun, lai ngut ki kynthei bad u 
wei u shynrang. Ki kyrteng 
jong ki ki long kine, Ka Sngi, 
Ka Um, Ka Ding, bad U Bynai. 
Kine baroh saw ngut ki la long 
ki khun riwbha khun don burom 
shisha shisha. Te une U Bynai 
u la long u briew uba riwnar, u 
sydang ban i-bha ia la ka hyn- 
men, Ka Sngi. Une U Bynai 
ruh ha kaba mynnyngkong u 
long uba phyrnai hi ryngkat 
Ka Sngi. Te ynda ka Sngi ka 
la sngew thuh ia ka jingmut 
riwnar Jong u ka la sngew 
bittar shibun bad ka la shim u 
dypei ha la ka kti bad ka la ong 
ia u, " da kum kane ka kam 
kaba sang kaba sniw phi thew 
ia nga ka hynmen kaba la thum 



her back like a mother does ; 
now I will cover your brow with 
ashes, you wicked and shame- 
less one; begone from the house." 
Then the Moon felt very much 
ashamed, and from that time 
he gave out a white light be- 
cause the Sun had covered him 
with ashes. What we see like 
a cloud (on the Moon) when it 
is full, are the ashes which 
adhered from the time the Sun 
covered him with them. The 
three daughters, however, re- 
mained at home to take care of 
their mother, until she grew old 
and died. 

la bah, la sumar sukher kum ka 
kymie ryngkat ; mynta ngan 
tep da u dypei ia ka shyllang- 
mat jong me u riwnar u khlem 
rain, khie phet noh na iing." 
Te U Bynai u la sngew rem 
sngew rain shibiin eh. Bad 
naduh kata ka por U Bynai u 
kylla da ka jingshai kaba lih 
namar ba tep Ka Sngi da u 
dypei. Bad uta uba ngi ioh-i 
ha U Bynai kum u Fob ha ka 
por ba u pyllun u long u dypei 
keiii uba sah naduh ba tep Ka 
Sngi. Te ki sah lai ngut ki para 
kynthei kiba sumar ia la ka 
kmie ba la sydot la tymmen 
haduh ba kan da iap. 


In olden days, when the earth 
was very young, they say that 
heaven and earth were very 
near to one another, because the 
navel-string of heaven drew the 
earth very close to it. This 
navel - string of heaven, re- 
sembling flesh, linked a hill 
near Sumer with heaven. At 
that time all the subjects of the 
Siem of Mylliem throughout his 
kingdom came to one decision, 
i.e. to sever the navel-string 
from that hill. After they had 
cut it, the navel-string became 
short; and, as soon as it short- 
ened, heaven then ascended 
high. It was since that time 
that heaven became so high, 
and it is for that reason that 
they call that hill which is near 
Sumer " U Sohpet Byneng." 


Mynhyndai mynba dang lung 
ka pyrthei ki ong ba ka byneng 
bad ka khyndew ki ia jan shibiin 
namar ba U Sohpet Byneng u 
ring ia ka byneng ba'n wan 
kham hajan. Une U Sohpet 
Byneng u long kum ka doh 
kaba snoh na u wei u lurn uba 
hajan Sumer bad ka snoh ruh 
ia ka byneng. Te mynkata ka 
p6r ki khiin ki raiot U Siem 
Mylliem baroh kawei ka hima 
ki ia ryntieh kawei ka buit ban 
ia ieng ba'n khet noh ia uta U 
Sohpet Byneng na uta u lum. 
Te ynda ki la ialeh ba'n khet ia 
u u la dykut, bad tang u shu 
dykut ka byneng ka la kiw 
theng sha jerong. Kumta ka 
shu jngai kunine ka byneng 
naduh kata ka p6r ba dykut U 
Sohpet Byneng na!6r uta u liim. 
Kane ruh ka long ka daw 
namar balei ba la khot ia uta u 
liim uba don hajan Sumer " U 
Lum Sohpet Byneng." 




In olden days, when the 
world was young, all the beasts 
lived happi)- together, and they 
bought and sold together, and 
they jointly built markets. The 
largest market where all the 
beasts used to take their articles 
for sale was "Luri-Lura," in 
the Bhoi country. To that 
market the dog came to sell 
rotten peas. No animal would 
buy that stinking stuff. When- 
ever any beast passed by his 
stall, he used to say "Please 
buy this stuff." When they 
looked at it and smelt it, it gave 
out a bad odour. When many 
animals had collected together 
near the stall of the dog, they 
took offence at him, and they 
said to him, "Why have you 
come to sell this evil-smell- 
ing, dirty stuff 1" They then 
kicked his ware and trampled 
it under foot. The dog then 
complained to the principal 
beasts and also to the tiger, 
who was at that time the priest 
of the market. But they con- 
demned him, saying, "You will 
be fined for coming to sell such 
dirty stuff in the market." So 
they acted despitefully towards 
him by kicking and trampling 
upon his wares. When the dog 
perceived that there was no one 
to give ear to his complaint, he 
went to man, who said, "Come 
and live with me, and I will 
arise with you to seek revenge 
on all the animals who have 
wronged you." The dog agreed 
and went to live with man from 
that time. Then man began to 
hunt with the assistance of the 


Mynhyndai, mynba dang lung 
ka pyrthei shibit, ki mrad ki 
mreng lai phew jaid ki ia suk ki 
ia lok para rnrad, bad ki ju ia- 
die-ia-thied, ia thaw iew thaw 
hat ryngkat. Te ka iew kaba 
khraw tarn eh kaba poi baroh 
ki lai phew mrad ba'n wallam 
la ki jingkhaii pateng ka long ka 
lew "Luri-Lura" ha ri Bhoi. 
Ha kata ka iew u ksew u wan 
die 'tung rymbai, te ym man 
don ba pan thied satia ia kata 
ka ktung. La iaid kawei ka 
mrad u tyrwa, "To thied kane 
ka ktung." Haba ka la khmih 
bad ka la iw, kaba iwtung pyn- 
ban, la iaid kawei pat ruh shu 
shem ba ka long kumta, kaba 
sniew bad kaba iwtung ka j ing- 
die jong u ksew. Te haba ki la 
ialang kham bun ha ka basa jong 
u ki la phoi ia u ksew, ki ong 
" balei me wan die ia ka ktung 
kaba iw jakhlial" bad ki la 
kynjat ia ka jingdie jong u bad 
ki la iiih hapoh slajat. Te u 
ksew u la mudui ha ki para 
mrad kiba kham rangbah bad 
ha u khla uba long lyngdoh, ha 
kata ka iew. Pynban ki la 
pynrem ia u, bad ki la ong, " yii 
dain kuna ia me uba wan die ia 
ka jakhlia ha ka iew ka hat." 
Kumta ki la leh bein ia u da 
kaba iuh kaba kynjat ia kata ka 
ktung. Te u ksew haba u ioh-i 
b'ym don ba sngap ia ka jing- 
mudui jong u, u la wan aha u 
bynriew, bad u bynriew u la 
ong "To wan shong noh bad 
riga nga'n ieng ryngkat bad me 
ba'n wad kyput ia ki lai phew 
mrad kiba leh bein ia me." Te 
kumta u ksew u la kohnguh bad 



dog. The dog knows well also 
how to follow the tracks of the 
animals, because he can scent 
in their footprints the smell of 
the rotten pea stuff which they 
trod under foot at Luri-Lura 

u la wan shong bad u bynriew 
naduh kata ka p6r. Nangta sa 
long ka beh mrad u bynriew 
ryngkat bad ka jingiarap u 
ksew. U ksew ruh u tip ba'n 
bud dien ia ki mrad, namar u 
sngewthiih ba ka dien ka khnap 
ka mrad baroh ka don ka jing- 
iw-khong ba la sah ka jingiw 
maduh kata ka p6r ba ki iiih ia 
ka ktung rymbai Jong u ha ka 
lew Luri-Lura. 


In olden days there was a 
market in the village of Langh- 
iang Kongkhen, and there was 
a bridge sacred to the gods 
there. All the children of men 
used to frequent that heavenly 
market. They used to pass by 
Rang jir teh, where there is a 
cave which was tenanted by a 
gigantic "thlen." When they 
went to that market, as soon as 
they arrived at Rangjirteh they 
were swallowed up by the 
"thlen." The " thlen " did 
this in obedience to an order he 
had received. If ten people 
went there, five of them were 
swallowed up; half of them he 
devoured, and half of them he 
let go. But any one who went 
alone was not touched by the 
" thlen," for it was necessary 
for him to leave untouched half 
(of the number of those who 
went). When many people 
had been devoured, and when 
they saw that all the children 
of men would be destroyed, 
whether they were Khasis or 
plains people, they held a great 
durbar at Sunnai market to 


Mynhyndai la don ka iew 
ha Langhiang Kongkhen, ba 
don kajingkieng blei hangta. 
Baroh ki khun bynriw ki ia wan 
ha kane ka iew blei. Ki iaid 
lynti na Rangjirteh, kaba don 
ka krem u thlen uba khraw eh. 
Te katba ki leit sha kane ka 
iew blei tang shu poi ha Rang- 
jirteh la nguid noh u thlen. U 
leh kum ha kane ka rukom kat 
kum ka hukurn ba u la ioh. 
Lada iaid shiphew ngut, san 
ngut la nguid noh ; shiteng 
shiteng la bam, shiteng shiteng 
la pyllait noh. Hinrei ia uba 
iaid wei briew ym bit ba'n bam. 
Ka dei ba'n da pyllait shiteng 
shiteng. Te ynda la lut than 
eh ki briew, ki i ruh kum ba'n 
sa duh ki khun bynriew baroh, 
bad Khasi bad Dykhar, hangta 
ki la sydang ba'n lum ka 
dorbar bah ha ka iew Sunnai, u 
Dykhar u hangta u Khasi ruh 
hangta. Ki ia pyrkhat ba'n ioh 
ka buit ka lad da kumno ki lah 
ba'n pyniap noh ia u thlen uba 
la bam duh ia u khun bynriew. 
Ynda ki la dorbar kham slem 
ki la ioh ka lad kaba biang 




which both K basis and plains 
people went. They considered 
together as to how to devise a 
means by which they could slay 
the "thlen" which had de- 
voured the children of men. 
After they had deliberated for a 
long time they decided to adopt 
the following plan. In the 
grove that is close to Lai try n- 
gew, which is called " the grove 
of U Suidnoh," there was a 
man called " U Suidnoh." 
They counselled together to get 
" U Suidnoh " to make friends 
with the "thlen." This Suid- 
noh was a courageous man 
who did not care for any one. 
He used always to walk alone ; 
so when he went to the "thlen," 
the latter did not eat him be- 
cause there was no one else 
with him who could be let 
go. The people advised U 
Suidnoh that he should go and 
give the " thlen " flesh every 
day, either goats, or pigs, or 
cattle. After he had done this 
for a long time, the " thlen" 
became tame, and was great 
friends with U Suidnoh. When 
both of them became very inti- 
mate thus, the children of men 
advised U Suidnoh to build a 
smelting house. So he built a 
smelting house and made the 
iron red-hot, and, holding it 
with a pair of tongs, took it to 
the "thlen." When he arrived 
he said to the " thlen," " Open 
your mouth, open your mouth, 
brother-in-law, here is some 
flesh." As soon as he opened 
his mouth, he threw the red-hot 
iron down his throat. The 
monster then struggled and 
wriggled so violently in its 
death agony that the earth 

kumne. Ha kata ka khldw 
hajan Laitryngew kaba ki khot 
'law Suidnoh la don uwei uba 
kyrteng "U Suidnoh" ki la 
ong ba'n pynialok ia U Suidnoh 
bad U Thlen. Une U Suidnoh 
u long uba riwnar u b'ym jiw 
iaid ryngkat briew. Wei briw, 
wei briw, u iaid. Kumta haba 
u leit sha U Thlen ruh u'm 
bam satia namar ba U Thlen hi 
ruh u'm jiw bam ha b'ym don 
jingpyllait. Ki briew ki la sylla 
ia U Suidnoh ba un leit ai doh 
ia u hala ka sngi; u ai da ki 
blang, ki sniang, ki massi. 
Haba la leh kumta kham slem 
U Thlen u la juh, u la ia lok 
bha bad U Suidnoh." Te 
ynda kine ki la ia juh bha, u 
khiin bynriew u la bythah pat 
ia U Suidnoh ba u'n shna 
shlem, bad u la shna shlem 
ba'n pyrsut nar-wah. Ynda u 
la pyrsut ia u nar haduh ba u 
la saw bha hain u la khap na 
ka lawar ding bak bad katba u 
dang saw dang khluid bha u la 
leit lam ha U Thlen. Tang shu 
poi u ong " Ko kynum ang, 
ang, kane ka doh," bad tang u 
shu ang u la thep jluk ha u 
pydot. Hangta U Thlen u la 
khih u la lympat u la kyrthat u 
la ksaid iap haduh ba la win ka 
khyndew kumba khih u jumai. 
Hangta U Suidnoh, kaba u ioh-i 
ia ka jingksaid iap TJ Thlen, u 
ruh u la iapler b'ym tip briew 
shuh. Te kata ka jingwin ka 
khyndew ka la pynkyndit ia u 
khun bynriew baroh ha ka 
pyrthei, bad ki la pyrkhat ba la 
jia ei ei. U Suidnoh u'm poi 
shuh sha la iing, te kiba ha iing 
jong u ki la leit wad, namar ki 
la tip ba u la leit ai jingbam ha 
U Thlen da u nar saw : hangta 



shook as if there had been an 
earthquake. When U Suidnoh 
saw the death struggle of the 
" thlen," he fainted (from ex- 
citement). The quaking of the 
earth startled all the children 
of men, and they thought 
that something had happened. 
When U Suidnoh did not re- 
turn home his family went to 
look for him, for they knew that 
he had gone to feed the " thlen " 
with red-hot iron. They found 
him there lying in a faint. 
When they had revived him, 
they asked him why he had 
fainted thus. He replied, 
" When I was feeding the 
' thlen ' with red-hot iron, he 
struggled and wriggled and I 
fainted. Come, let us go and 
see what has become of him." 
They then went and found that 
the " thlen" was dead. They 
then published abroad all over 
the world that the " thlen " was 
dead, and they convened a 
durbar to decide about eating 
him. In the durbar they came 
to the following understanding, 
i.e. that the Khasis should eat 
half, and the plains people half 
(of the body). After they had 
come to this decision in the 
durbar, they then went to take 
him out of the cave, and they 
lifted him on to a rock. They 
there cut into pieces the 
" thlen's " carcase. The plains 
people from the East, being 
more numerous, ate up their 
share entirely, not leaving any- 
thing for this reason there are 
no " thlens " in the plains ; 
but the Khasis from the West, 
being fewer in numbers, could 
not eat up the whole of their 
share; they left a little of it. 

ki la shem ba u la iap ler, bad 
ki la pynkyndit ia u bad ki la 
kylli ia u " Balei me iapler 
kumne?" U ong, "Hamar ba 
nga dang ai jingbam ia U Thlen 
da u nar saw ba la pyrsut bha, 
u la kyrthat khih lympat U 
Thlen bad nga la iap ler. ' f Ia, 
ia leit khymih kumno u la long." 
Ynda ki la ia leit khymih ki 
shem ba la iap U Thlen. 
Hangta la pynbyna haw ia ka 
pyrthei baroh ba la lah iap U 
Thlen a bad u lum ka dorbar ba'n 
bam noh ia u. Hangta ha ka 
dorbar ki la ia kut kumne : 
ki Khasi ki'n bam shiteng bad 
ki Dykhar ki'n bam shiteng. 
Ynda la ia kut kumta ha ka 
dorbar ki la ieng ba'n leit sei 
noh na ka krem, bad ki la rah 
halor u mawsiang. Hangta ki 
la ia shain ia dain ia ka doh U 
Thlen lyngkhot lyngkhot. Ki 
Dykhar na mih-ngi, namar ba 
ki kham bun briew ki la bam 
lut ia la ka bynta, kim shym 
pynsah ei ei, kumta ym don 
Thlen shuh ha pyddeng ki 
Dykhar. Hinrei ki Khasi, na 
sepngi namar ba ki kham duna 
briew ki'm shym lah ba'n bam 
lut ia la ka bynta, ki la pynsah 
katto katne. Knmta namar ba 
ki'm shym bam lut, U Thlen u 
dang sah. U Suidnoh u la ioh 
la ka nam la ka burom hadiih 
mynta. Namar haba ki Khasi 
ki shem ba la ot shniuh ne ot 
jain ki pynkit halor U Suidnoh 
bad ki ai jingknia ia u. Ki 
Synteng ruh ki don la U Thlen 
hinrei u pher shibun na U 
Thlen Khasi. Ki Synteng ruh 
ki ngeit ba u long u kynja 
bysein, bad don ki iing bad ki 
jaid kiba jiw ri ia u bad ki mane 
kum u blei. Ki ai jingknia ia 



Thus, because they did not eat 
it all, the "thlen" has re- 
mained with them. U Suidnoh 
gained for himself fame and 
honour, which he enjoys up to 
the present day. The Khasis, 
therefore, when they find that 
the hair or the clothes of any 
one belonging to them have 
been cut, refer the matter 
to U Suidnoh, and they sacri- 
fice to him. The Syntengs also 
have their " thlen," but he 
differs much from the Khasi 
"thlen." The Syntengs also 
believe he is a kind of serpent, 
and there are some families and 
clans who keep him and wor- 
ship him like a god. They 
sacrifice to him a pig only ; 
they do not propitiate him with 
human blood as the Khasis do. 1 

u tang da u sniang, hinrei kim 
ai da ka snam briew kumba ai 
ki Khasi kiba ri ia u. 



In ancient times, when the 
world was still young, there 
were two river goddesses who 
lived on the Shillong Peak ; 
perhaps really they were the 
daughters of the god of the 
Peak. These two wagered one 
against the other that each 
would be the first to arrive in 
the Sylhet plains by cutting a 


Hyndai mynba dang lung ka 
pyrthei la don ar ngut ki blei 
um kiba shong ha him Shillong. 
Lehse shisha ki long ki khiin 
u blei Shillong. Kine ki la ia 
kop ba'n ia mareh ba'n ia 
pynpoi kloi sha ri madan Shilot 
da kaba ia pom mar kawei ka 
wah. Kumta ki la ia kut bad 
ki la ia mih na Shillong kawei 

1 For further details regarding the Khasi superstition of the "thlen," the 
reader is referred to the portion of the Monograph dealing with human 
sacrifices. It may be mentioned that the " thlen's" cave is at a place called 
Pom Doloi in the territory of the Siem of Cherra, where there is also a rock 
called " Dain Thlen" (the cutting of the " thlen "). Another version of the 
story explaining why there are still " thlens " in the Khasi Hills is that there 
was an old woman who lived at a place called Mawphu, a village in a valley 
to the west of Cherrapunji. This old woman forgot to eat her share of the 
" thlen's " flesh, the result being that the species became repropagated. 



channel for herself. They 
agreed to start from Shillong 
Peak. One followed the 
channel of the Umngot, and 
the other that of Umiew or 
Umiam. The one that followed 
the channel of Umngot chose a 
soft and easy bed, and although 
the way was a longer one, she 
did not find it a trouble to go 
by a circuitous route. When 
she reached the Sylhet plains 
she was called "Shengurkhat," 
and she then flowed past Chha- 
tak and so reached Duwara. 
She looked round to see where 
Umiam was, but she could not 
descry her anywhere. So out 
of playfulness she flowed 
slowly, and she formed a 
channel like a necklace (rupa- 
tylli) by way of waiting to see 
where Umiam was. Umiew 
was very proud, she felt strong 
enough to make the channel 
she chose, and although it was 
through the midst of hills and 
rocks, she cared not a bit \ so 
she wasted time by digging 
through the hills and boulders. 
When she reached Sheila, she 
thought she could easily beat 
Umngot, for the course she had 
taken was a very straight one. 
When she got a little below 
Sheila she saw Umngot shout- 
ing for joy with foaming waves 
in the Rupatylli channel at 
Duwara. She was covered 
with shame, and she slackened 
her speed and split herself up 
into five branches, namely, ka 
Umtong, ka Torasa, ka Pas 
biria, ka Kumarjani, and ka 
Duwara. Umiam did this so 
as to hide her shame from 
Umngot. This is how the 
river Rupatylli was formed at 

ka Umngot bad kawei ka 
Umiew ne Umiam. Kata ka 
Umngot ka bud ia ka lynti 
na ba jem ba jem, la ka long 
kham jingngai ruh kam sngew 
salia ba'n iaid kyllain. Kumta 
ka la poi ha Shilot ba'n khot ka 
wah Shengurkhat bad ka iaid 
haduh Shattok, bad ka poi ha 
Duwara. Ka khymih ia ka 
Umiam haei-haei-ruh, te ym 
ioh-i. Kumta ka la leh suki 
kai, ka thaw ka rupa tylli 
hangto ba'n long kumba sangeh 
ba'n ioh-i ia ka Umiam. Ka 
Umiew ka long kaba kham 
sarong, ka sngew khlain ba'n 
iaid na ka lynti kaba bit la ka 
long da ki him ne ki maw, 
ka'm suidniew, kumta ka la 
pynlut por ha kaba tih ia ki 
lum bad ki maw. Ynda ka la 
poi ha Sheila ka la shu mut 
ba'n jop ia ka Umngot namar 
ka lynti jong ka ka long kaba 
beit eh, te ynda ka la poi 
harum Sheila khyndiat ka la 
ioh-i ia ka Umngot ba ka la 
risa da ka jingkhie dew ha ka 
wah Rupatylli ha Duwara. 
Kumta ka la sngew rain suin 
bad ka la leh suki noh da 
kaba pynpait tynat ia lade san 
tylli, kawei ka Umtang; ar ka 
Umtarasa ; lai ka Pasbiria ; 
saw ka wah Kumarjani ; san ka 
wah Duwara. Kumne ka la 
leh khnang ba'n buh rieh ia la 
ka jingkhein burom ha khymat 
ka Umngot. Kumta sa long 
ka wah Rupatylli ha Duwara 
namar ka long ka dak ka 
j ing jop ka Umngot ia ka 

N 2 



Duwara, to be a token that 
Umngot had been victorious in 
her contest with Umiew. 1 

THE KUPLI (KopiLi). 

The Kopili river rises in the 
"Black Mountains," 2 and flows 
northwards into the Brahma- 
putra. It is the boundary be- 
tween the country of the Syn- 
tengs and that of the Hadems. 3 
Any traveller who wishes to 
cross this river must leave be- 
hind him the rice which he has 
taken for his journey, and any 
other food that he may have 
taken with him. If he does 
not do so, even if he crosses 
the river at an unforbidden 
point, he is liable to offer a 
sacrifice to the Kopili goddess. 
The people offer to her three 
fowls and three goats outside 
the village, i.e. one to the 
goddess herself, and the other 
two to her sons, TJ Shyngkram 
and U Jali ; and five fowls, that 
they may all three feast to- 
gether ; this is in the case of 
one transgression only. But in 
the case of a man who has 
committed more than one, it is 
not possible to say how many 
goats and fowls must be sacri- 



Ka Kupli ka long ka wah na 
ki him baiong bad ka tiiid da 
artet ha ka wah Brahmaputra. 
Ka long ka pud ia ka ri Syn- 
teng bad ka ri Hadem ha 
mihngi. Uno-uno u nongleit 
jingleit uba kwah ban jam ia 
kane ka wah Blei-Kupli u don 
kam ba'n bred noh ia la u 
khaw-ryneng ha shiliang wah, 
bad ia ki kynja jingbam baroh 
phar, te un sa klan ia ka. 
Lada u'm da leh kumta, la'u 
klan na ka jaka ka b'ym sang 
ruh un hap jingainguh ha ka. 
Ki khxin-ki-hajar ia ka ba lum 
lai s'iar, lai blang kawei ia ka, 
marmar uwei ia U Shyngkram 
bad U Jali ; bad san s'iar ba 
ki'n ia bam sngewbha baroh lai 
ngut shi khun shi kymie, kata 
ka long haba long tang kawei 
ka lait, hinrei haba ka'n long 
katba shong ka lait u briew lei-lei, 
ngam tip ka'n long katno blang 
katno siar namar haba dei ka'n 
wan pan ka jingkiiia namar ba 

1 Both rivers, Umngot and Umiew, or Umiam, have their sources in or 
close to the Shillong Peak. The word "Rupatylli" signifies in Khasi 
a solid silver necklace of a peculiar shape. In order to appreciate this 
pretty tale thoroughly, the reader ought to view the river " Rupatylli" from 
the heights of Laitkynsew, or Mahadeo, whence it is to be seen glistening in 
the sun like a veritable rupatylli or silver necklace. 

2 These mountains are the high hills which lie to the east of the Jowai 
Sub-Division, and which form part of the boundary line between the Khasi 
and Jaintia Hills District and North Cachar. 

8 The word Hadem is possibly a corruption of "Hidimba," the old name 
for North Cachar. 



ficed, because the river often 
demands offerings on account 
of a man's parents or relatives 
having crossed the river at 
some time or other. 

From the time of the old 
Siem to that of U Ram Singh 
Siem, they used to sacrifice to 
this great goddess two persons 
during the months of Novem- 
ber and December at the time of 
offering a sacrifice at Jaintiapur. 
After a ceremony performed by 
the Brahmins at Jaintiapur, the 
victims are led to the Mawshai 
(Shangpung) market, where 
they are allowed to take and 
eat anything they like. After 
that they conduct them to 
Sumer ; but some say that the 
stone on which the victims are 
beheaded is situated below the 
village of Ka lew Ksi, near a 
stream which falls into the 
Kopili, and where there is a 
mawkynthei (flat table-stone) 
close to that sacred river. 

They place the victims on 
that stone, where the execu- 
tioner beheads them with a 
terrible sword. After that they 
throw the dead bodies and their 
heads into the river. But in 
the days of U Markuhain (U 
Raj Indro Singh) "who was 
our contemporary," they have 
ceased to do so out of fear of 
the East India Company. The 
victims are known by the name 
of " Mugha Khara." 

At that time all the people 
of the territory of the twelve 
dolois were in a great state of 
terror. It is said that the 
victim-catchers, when they in- 
quired about the clan (of their 
intended victims), conducted 
themselves as if they did not 

la klan ia ka na khlieh lane na 
kyjat da u kynie u kypa kano- 
kano ka iing lane kano-kano ka 
kur. Naduh ki sngi ki Siem 
Tymmen haduh ki sngi U Ram 
Singh Siem ia kane ka blei bah 
ka kymai u lei ba khraw ki kfiia 
da ki briew ar-ngut shi snem 
shi snem hamar u bynai ba ki 
puja ne ai nguh ha Jaintiapur, 
kata, hamar u 'nai wieng bad u 
'nai nohprah. Ynda ki la kfiia 
ha Jaintiapur da ki Bramon, ki 
sa ia lam ia ki sha ka iew Maw- 
shai ne ka iew Shangpung ba 
ki'ri bam shiwa katba mon na 
kata ka iew. Nangta pat sha 
Sumer, kiwei pat ki ong ba u 
maw ba ki khrai khlieh ia ki 
Muga Khara u don harum ka 
shriong lewksi hajan kawei ka 
wah kaba tiiid sha ka Kupli 
sha ka jaka ba don ka maw 
kyiithei harud kata ka wah blei 
Kumta ki sa kyntiw halor kata 
ka maw kynthei ia ki ; nangta 
pat wan sa u nongkhrai khlieh 
bad ka wait ba i-shyrkhei, u 
khrai ia ki hangta. Hadin kata 
ki sa shat ia ki met-iap sha um 
bad ia ki khlieh Jong ki ruh 
de. Hinrei ha ki sngi U Mar- 
kuhahi ne U Raj -Indro Singh 
uba ha Khyjong ngi mynta ym 
long shftih kuinta namar ba u 
tieng ia ka Kompani. la kine 
ki briew ba ki kfiia ki khot 
kyrteng ia ki ki Muga Khara. 

Mynkata ki bynriew shi 
khadar doloi sngew tieng, ki 
ong ba ki nongkem ki da kylli 
shiwa ia ka jaid, ki da leh ia 
lade kum ki bym mut ba'n leh 
ei-ei-ruh, to ynda kita ki briw 
ia kiba ki mut ba'n kem ki la ia 
thuh ia la ka jaid ki sa kem ia 
ki. Haba ki sngew ba ki long 
na ka jaid kaba jiw long kong- 



intend to do anything. When 
the people told their clan, then 
they caught them. When they 
heard that the people belonged 
to clans from which kongngors 1 
were selected, they did not 
arrest them. When it was 
impossible to get hold of any- 
one else, they sacrificed some of 
the (king's) slaves. 

ng6r ki'm jiw kem. Te haba 
ym ioh eh ki knia da ki mraw 


There was in olden days a 
woman called Ka Rytiang of 
the Siem clan. Whilst she was 
still a spinster, she used to go 
to catch fish in a stream over 
which there is to the present 
day a bridge made of a single 
stone, called Mawpun ka Ryti- 
ang. Whilst she was catching 
fish in the midst of the stream, 
a fit of drowsiness overtook her. 
At that very moment there 
approached her a very hand- 
some young man, who thus 
addressed her : " Take this 
drumful of money ; do not 
marry, and thou shalt never- 
theless bear children. Thou 
must throw a bridge built of 
a single stone across this 
stream, thou must build thy 
house entirely of stone, the 
beams must be all of stone. 
Thou must spend all the money 
I have given thee, and if it does 
not suffice for thy expenditure, 
I shall bring more. Thou wilt 
remember all that I say 1 " She 
replied "yes." As soon as he 
had finished speaking to her, 
she awoke from her fit of 


Te la don mynhyndai kawei 
ka briew kaba kyrteng ka Ry- 
tiang, ka jaid Siem. Mynba ka 
dangsamla ka leit tong sher na 
kata ka wah kaba don u Maw- 
piin uba ki khot haduh mynta 
u Mawpun ka-Rytiang. Hamar 
ba ka dang tong she"r ha pyd- 
deng um ka lamshoh sam thiah 
hangta. Hamarkata ka por la 
mih u wei u briew uba bha- 
briew shibun eh, bad u ong ha 
ka, " Heh kane ka tyngka shi 
sing nalai; te pha wat shong- 
kurim shun, ho; koit, ki khun 
pha'n ioh hi, bad pha'n pun 
uwei u mawpiin na Shilliang 
sha shilliang kane ka wah, bad 
thaw iing ba phan shong da ki 
maw suda ki rijid ki rishot, kiei 
kiei baroh thaw da ki maw. 
Pha'n pynlut kane ka tyngka 
baroh, bad lada ym dap ruh 
ngan sa wallam pat. Phan 
kynmaw ho ia kaba nga la ong 
baroh." Ka ong "haoid." Te 
kumne-kumne, tang shu la dep 
kine ki ktin baroh ba u kren, 
ka la kyndit na kata ka jing- 
shoh sam thiah, bad ka tyngka 
ka don ha ka kti Jong ka shi- 

1 A Kongngor is one who has married a Khasi princess. 



drowsiness and found herself 
holding a drumful of money. 
On her way home she pondered 
over what he had said to her, 
and her heart was full of joy 
that she had met a god who 
had given her so much money, 
and who had spoken such 
words to her. She then con- 
structed a bridge over that 
stream with a single stone, 
which remains till this day. 1 
When she was about to build 
her house, it happened that she 
got married notwithstanding ; 
she gave birth to a blind child, 
and died shortly afterwards. 
So the people called the village 
" Maw - pun - ka - Rytiang," or, 
when abbreviated, " Mawpun- 

'sing nalai. Te ynda ka la wan 
sha la iing, artat artat ka lynti 
ka la puson ha la ka mynsim 
da kaba kymen ba ka la iashem 
ia u blei uba la ai katne ki tyng- 
ka bad uba la kren kum kine 
ki ktin. Te kumta ka la ring u 
mawpiin uba don hadiih mynta. 
Bad hamar ba ka dang sydang 
ba'n thaw sa ka iing ka lap ba 
ioh tynga noh pynban : kumta ka 
kha u khun da uba matlah bad 
tang shibit ka iap noh. Kumta 
ki ioh ban khot ka shnong 
Mawpiin-ka-Rytiang, lane haba 
kren lyngkot Mawpunkyrtiang. 


The Siem of Malyniang was 
one of those kings who, people 
said, was one of the "god- 
kings." He lived in the village 
of Madur, which is now in the 
Maskut doloiship. There arose 
from the royal family of Maly- 
niang a king whose name was 
Kyllong Raja. His manner was 
very peculiar, but he was at 
the same time both stern and 
courageous. He made up his 
mind to conquer the whole of 
the Synteng country as well as 
the territory of the Siem of 
Shillong, in order to extend his 
own kingdom of Madur. This 
Kyllong did not require many 


U Siem Malyniang u la long 
uwei u Siem ba jiw byna ba u 
long u kynja Siem blei. Une u 
la shong ha ka shnong Madur 
kaba long mynta ha ka ilaka u 
doloi Maskut. Ha ka jaid Siem 
Malyniang la mih uwei uba 
kyrteng U Kyllong Raja. Une 
u Siem uba phylla shibun ha la 
ka jinglong, u briew uba eh uba 
shlur. U la thymu ban jop ia 
ka ri Synteng baroh bad ia ka 
ri Shillong ban pynkhraw ia la 
ka hima Madur. Une u Kyl- 
long u'm donkam shibun ki 
nongbud ban leit ia leh ia kano- 
kano ka thyma, namar u long u 

1 This stone bridge, situated on the Theria road about a mile below 
Cherra, existed up to the Earthquake of 1897, which demolished it. The 
large slab of stone which formed the roadway of the bridge, is, however, 
still to be seen lying in the bed of the stream. 

1 84 


followers when he went to war 
because he was a very strong 
man and a man whom nobody 
could kill, for, if he was killed 
he came to life again imme- 
diately. The Synteng king once 
chopped him up into pieces and 
threw his hands and feet far 
away, and thought he would 
not come to life again. 
Nevertheless, next morning he 
came to life just the same, and 
he stalked along all the paths 
and byways to intercept his 
enemies. The Synteng king was 
in great trouble on his account, 
and was at a loss for a plan 
how to overcome him, because, 
having been killed once or twice, 
he came to life again. 

When the Synteng king had 
thought well over the matter, 
he hit on a device which he 
thought a very good one, by 
which he could ascertain by 
what manner of means he came 
to life again after having once 
been killed. The Synteng king's 
stratagem was the following : 
He selected the most beautiful 
girl in the Synteng country, he 
put on her ornaments of gold 
and of silver and royal raiment 
of great price, and he said to 
her, " All these will I give thee, 
and more besides, if thou canst 
obtain for me the secret of 
Kyllong Raja, and canst in- 
form me how he brings himself 
to life again after being killed. 
Now I will send thee to the 
market there, and if Kyllong 
Raja takes a fancy to thee, and 
if he is willing to take thee to 
wife, thou wilt go, and thou wilt 
pretend to love him as far as is 
in thy power. Afterwards thou 
wilt inquire regarding all his 

briew uba khlain shibun bad u 
by'm jiw don uba lah ba'n 
pyniap ia u. La ki pyniap ruh 
u im pat kumne-kumne. U 
Siem Synteng u la pom ia u 
tukra-tukra, u la bred ia ki kyjat 
ki kti sha jingngai, bad u la 
tharai ba u'n ym* im shuh 
pynban tang la mynstep u la im 
hi kumjuh, u la iaid ia ki lad ki 
dong ban sywait ia ki nongshun. 
U Siem Synteng u la shitom 
shibun ia u bad u la duh buit 
ruh da kurnno yn leh ba'n jop ia 
u, haba shi sin ar sin la pyniap 
u shu im pat kumjuh pakum- 
juh. Te haba u Siem Synteng u 
la pyrkhat bha u la shem kawei 
ka buit kaba u tharai ba ka long 
kaba bha tarn bad kaba u lah ban 
tip da kano ka rukom ne ka 
jingstad ba u im pat haba la 
pyniap ia u. Ka buit jong u 
Siem Synteng ka la long kumne. 
U la shim kawei ka samla kaba 
bhabriew tarn na ka ri Syn- 
teng baroh, u pyndeng ki jing- 
deng ksiar ki jingdeng rupa, 
bad u pynkup ki jain Siem kiba 
kordor eh, bad u ong ha ka 
"ngan ai ia pha kine baroh, 
bad ngan ai shuh ruh nalor kine 
lada pha'n ioh ia ka buit u 
Kyllong Raja ban iathuh ha 
nga da kumno u lah ban pynim 
pat ia lade haba pom ia u. Te 
mynta nga'n phah ia pha sha 
ieu shato, lada une u Kyllong 
Raja u i-bha ia pha, bad u'n 
shim ia~pha ban long ka tynga 
jong u, phan leit, bad phan leh 
ieit ia u katba lah. Had in sa 
kylli ia ka buit ka jingstad 
baroh, da kumno u im pat haba 
la pom ruh, bad ynda pha la 
tip ia kita baroh sa pyntip sha 
nga ba nga'n sa jop ia u. Te 
lada pha'n leh kumta nga'n 



secrets and wisdom, i.e. how he 
comes to life again after he has 
been killed ; and after thou hast 
found out all these things, thou 
wilt inform me, so that I may 
overcome him. Then, if thou 
art successful in thy mission, I 
will give thee a great reward." 
He then sent her to the market. 
Kyllong Raja saw her and fell 
in love with her, and he took 
her to wife and kept her at 
Madur. Then that damsel pre- 
tended to love him exceedingly, 
and she repeatedly asked him 
his secret, how he came to 
life again. Then Kyllong Raja, 
fancying that she really loved 
him, confessed all to her. He 
said, " My life depends upon 
these things. I must bathe 
every day and must wash my 
entrails" (hence the appellation 
of "the king who washes his 
inside " which they gave him), 
" after that T take my food, and 
there is no one on earth who 
can kill me unless he obtains 
possession of my entrails. Thus 
my life hangs only on my 

When, therefore, that damsel 
who had become his wife had 
learnt all these ings, she sent 
word to the Synteng king that 
he should send one of his elders, 
to whom she might reveal the 
secret of U Kyllong's existence. 
When the Synteng king heard 
this, he sent his elders to her. 
She then told all those things 
that U Kyllong had confessed 
to her. When the Synteng 
king had heard everything, he 
gave orders to the people to be 
on the watch so as to get hold 
of U Kyllong Raja. They 
found him one day bathing, 

ai buskit ia pha shibun ho. 
Kumta u phah iew soit ia ka. 
Te une U Kyllong Raja u la 
iohih ia ka, bad u la i-bha 
shisha ia ka, bad u shim iaka 
ba'n long ka tynga Jong u." U 
buh ia ka ha Madur. Te kata 
ka samla ka la leh ieit ia u 
shibun eh bad ka kylli byniah 
ia ka buit ka j ings tad ba u im 
pat. Hangta une u Kyllong 
Raja, haba u iohih ba ka leh 
ieit shibun u phla ia kiei-kiei 
baroh hak-a. U ong, " Ka jing 
im jong-nga ka long kumne : 
naga dei ban sum ha la ka sngi 
bad ban sait ia la ki snir 
(nangta la khot ia u "U Siem 
sait-snir"). Hadin kata ngan 
sa bam ja, bad y'm don mano- 
mano ba lah ban pyniap ia nga 
lada ki'm ioh ia ki snir. Kumta 
ka jing-im jong nga ka sydin 
tang ha ki snir hi." Kumta, 
ynda kata ka samla, ka tynga 
jong u, ka la ioh tip ia kata 
baroh ka phah ktin sha u Siem 
Synteng ba'n wan uno-uno u 
rangbah ba ka'n iathuh ia ka 
jingim bad ka jingiap u Kyllong 
Raja. Te u Siern Synteng ynda 
u la sngow ia kata ka ktin shi 
syndon u la phah ia la ki rang- 
bah sha ka. Te ka la iathuh ia 
kiei-kiei baroh katba u Kyllong 
Raja u la phla. Te u Siem 
Synteng ynda u la tip ia kane 
baroh u la ai hukum ia ki briew 
ba ki'n khiar ban ioh ia u 
Kyllong Raja. Te ha kawei ka 
sngi ki la lap ia u ba u sum bad 
u la buh ia ki snir ha kata ka 
jaka ba u sum ba u mut ban 
sait ia ki. Hangta uwei u briew 
uba na Ralliang u la shim ia ki 
snir jong u bad u pom ia u ; ia 
kita ki snir u la pyndykut lyng- 
kot lyngkhai bad u la ai ha ki 

1 86 



with his entrails placed on one 
side of the bathing-place, so 
that afterwards he might wash 
them. Thereupon a man from 
Ralliang seized the entrails and 
killed him. He cut the entrails 
into little pieces and gave them 
to the dogs. Thenceforth U 
Kyllong Raja was not able to 
come to life again. Madur 
was conquered, and all the 
members of the royal family 
of Malyniang were scattered 
from that time. Seven genera- 
tions have passed since then. 1 

ksew. Naduh kata ka por u 
Kyllong Raja u'm lah shuh ba'n 
im pat, bad kumta la jop ia ka 
Madur, la pynsakyma ia ka 
jaid Siem Malyniang naduh 
kata ka por. Te naduh kata 
hadiih mynta la duh hinniew 
kyrteng bynriw. 


In the northern portion of 
the Khasi Hills which borders 
on the Bhoi country there lived 
a man, by name U Manik. 
The people nicknamed him "U 
Manik Raitong," because he 
was an orphan, his parents, 
his brothers and sisters, and 
the whole of his clansfolk hav- 
ing died. He was very poor in 
addition. U Manik Raitong 
was filled with grief night and 
day. He used to weep and 
deeply groan on account of his 
orphanhood and state of beg- 
gary. He did not care about 
going out for a walk, or playing 
like his fellow youths. He used 
to smear himself with ashes 
and dust. He used to pass his 
days only in weeping and 
groaning, because he felt the 
strain of his misery to such an 
extent, He made a flute upon 
which to play a pathetic and 
mournful tune. By day he 


La don uwei u briw shap- 
bang shatei ha ka ri Khasi ha 
khap ri Bhoi uba kyrteng U 
Manik. Ki briw ki la sin ia u 
U Manik Raitong namar ba u 
long u khun swet uba la iad 
baroh ki kymi, ki kypa, ki 
hynmen, ki para bad ki kur 
ki jaid. U long ruh uba duk 
shibun. Une U Manik Raitong 
u dap da ki jingsngowsih synia 
sngi, u iam ud jilliw ha la ka 
mynsim namar la ka jinglong 
khun swet long pukir. Um jiw 
kwah ban iaid kai leh kai kum 
ki para samla; u sum da ka 
dypei da ka khyndew ia lade, u 
pynleit la ki sngi ki por tang 
ha ki jingud ki jingiam ba u 
sngowisynei ia ka pyrthei sngi 
ba shem shitom haduh katne. 
Te u la thaw kawei ka sharati 
ban put ka jingiam briw bad 
jingriwai sngowisynei. Myn- 
sngi mynsngi u jiw leit bylla 
pynlur masi haba la don ba 

1 The above story is said to have been taken down word for word from the 
mouth of an old woman of the Malyniang clan who lived at Mawlong. P.R.G. 



used to work as a ploughman, 
whenever he was called upon to 
do so. If nobody called him, 
he used to sit inactive at home, 
weeping and groaning and 
smearing his rags with dust 
and ashes. At night he used 
to bathe and dress himself well, 
and, after having eaten his food, 
he used to take his flute and 
play on it till morning. This 
was always his practice. He 
was a very skilful player. He 
had twelve principal tunes. 
There lived in the same village 
a queen. Her husband, the 
Siem, used to be absent from 
home for long intervals in con- 
nection with his public duties. 
One night, when the queen 
heard the strains of U Raitong's 
flute, she listened to them with 
very great pleasure, and she 
felt so much compassion for 
him that she arose from her 
couch at midnight and went to 
visit him. When she reached 
his house, she asked him to 
open the door, so that she 
might pay him a call. U Rai- 
tong said, " I can't open the 
door, as this is not the time to 
pay visits," and he went on 
playing his flute and dancing 
to the music, with tears in his 
eyes. Then the queen peeped 
through one of the chinks of 
the wall and saw him, and she 
was besido herself, and break- 
ing open the door she entered 
in. Then U Raitong, having 
stopped playing, was annoyed 
that, to add to his misfortunes, 
this woman had come to trouble 
him thus. When she tried to 
beguile him, U Raitong admon- 
ished her and sent her away. 
She departed just before day- 

wer, haba ym don u shong 
khop-khop ha la iing, u iam u 
ud, u sum dypei sum khyndew 
halor la ki jain syrdep jot. 
Mynmiet mynmiet u sum u 
sleh, u kup bha kup khuid ; bad 
ynda u la lah bam lah dih u 
shim ka sharati u put hadiih 
ban da shai. Barobor u jiw 
leh kumta. Ha kaba put ruh 
u long uba nang shibun, u don 
khadar jaid ki jingput kiba 
kongsan tarn ha ka jingput jong 
u. Te la don ka mahadci ha 
kata ka shnong kaba u tynga 
jong ka u long u Siem Rangbah 
ha ka Hima. Une u Siem u 
leit sha Dykhar ban pyndep 
bun jaid ki kam Siem jong u, 
bad u dei ban jah slem na la 
iing. Kane ka mahadei ha 
kawei ka miet haba ka la ioh 
sngow ba'riew ka sharati U 
Raitong ka la sngowbha shibun 
eh ban sngap, bad haba ka la 
sngap ka la sngow ieit sngow- 
isynei ia U Raitong haduh ba 
ka la khie joit shiterig synia 
ban leit kai sha U Raitong. 
Te haba ka la poi tiap ha 
khymat ka iing jong u ka la 
phah plie ban wan kai. U 
Raitong u ong ym lah ban plie 
namar kam long ka por ba dei 
ban wan kai. Kumta u put la 
ka jingput bad la ka jingshad 
nohlyngngeh pynjem ryndang 
jaw ummat. Te ka mahadei, 
haba ka la khymih na kawei 
ka thliew kaba pei, ka la ioh- 
ih ia u ; hangta lei-lei kam don 
pyrthei shuh haduh ba ka a 
kyddiah ia ki jingkhang bad ka 
la rung shapoh iing. Kumta 
U Raitong u la wai noh la ka 
jingput bad u sngowsih, halor 
ba shem kat kano ka pyrthei 
sngi, sa kane ruh nang wan leh 



break. U Raitong then took 
off his fine clothes, and putting 
on his rags, sprinkled himself 
with dust and ashes, and went 
to plough as was his wont. The 
queen, however, ensnared him 
by another device, and whilst 
the king was still away in the 
plains, she gave birth to a male 
child. When the Siem returned, 
he was much surprised to find 
that she had borne a child dur- 
ing his absence, and however 
much he asked her to confess, 
she would not do so. So the 
king called the elders and young 
men to judge the case, and 
when no proof was found con- 
cerning this business, the king 
appointed another day, when 
all the males (in the State) 
should appear, each man hold- 
ing a plantain. On the ap- 
pointed day, all the males of 
the State having appeared, the 
king told them all to sit in a 
circle and to show their plan- 
tains, and said, "We will place 
this child in the midst, and to 
whomsoever the child goes, he 
is his father, and the adulterer. 
We will beat him to death with 
clubs according to the law." 
Accordingly, when all the 
people sat in a circle, and 
the child was placed in the 
midst, he went to no one, and, 
although the king called and 
coaxed him much, he neverthe- 
less refused to go. Then the 
king said, " Remember who is 
absent." All replied, "There 
is no one else except U Manik 
Raitong," The Siem replied, 
"Call, then, U Raitong." Some 
of the people said, "It is use- 
less to call that unfortunate, 
who is like a dog or a cat ; leave 

ih-bein kumne. Haba ka la 
lam pynshoi ia u, U Raitong u 
la sneng ia ka bad u la phah 
noh ia ka, te ka la leit noh haba 
ka sydang ban shai pher. U 
Raitong u la law la ki jain bha, 
u la shim la ki syrdep bad u 
dypei ban leh kumta u jiw leh 
bad u la leit pynlur masi. 
Hinrei kane ka mahadei ka la 
riam ia u da kawei pat ka buit. 
Te katba u Siem u nangsah ha 
Dykhar ka la nang kha i wei i 
khun shinrang, bad haba u la 
wan u la sngow phylla shibun 
eh ba ka la ioh khun haba um 
don. La u kylli byniah katno- 
katno ruh kam phla satia. 
Kumta U Siem u la lum ia u 
tymmen u san, u khynraw 
khyndein, baroh ban bishar, te 
haba ym shem sabud ei ei shap- 
hang kane ka kam, kumta u 
buh ha kawei ka sngi ba yn wan 
u shinrang briw baroh katba 
don, kin wallam bad lakait 
kawei-kawei man u briw. 
Ynda la poi kata ka sngi, baroh 
ki la wan na ka hima, bad U 
Siem u ong, phin shong tawiar 
baroh, pynih la ka kait, ngin 
buh ia uiie u khunlung ha pyd- 
deng, jar haba une u khunlung 
un leit uta dei u kypa bad uba 
klim, ia uta yn shoh tangon ha 
bynda iap kum ka ain ka jiw 
long. Kumta te haba la shong 
tawiar u paitbah byllin, la bah 
ia uta u khunlung ha pyddeng. 
Uta u khunlung um leit hano- 
hano ruh, la khot la khroh. U 
Siem katno katno ruh um treh. 
"To ia ia kynrnaw sa man u 
by m don hangne" ong U Siem. 
Baroh ki ong, " ym don shuh, 
sa tang U Raitong. " " Khot 
te ia U Raitong," ong U Siem. 
Don katto katne na pyddeng 



him alone, oh king." The king 
replied, " No, go and call him, 
for every man must come." 
So they called him, and when 
he arrived and the child saw 
him, the child laughed and 
followed "U Raitong." Then 
the people shouted that it was 
U Raitong who had committed 
adultery with the queen, The 
king and his ministers then 
ordered that U Raitong should 
be put to death outside the 
village. U Raitong said, " Be 
pleased to prepare a funeral 
pyre, and I will burn myself 
thereon, wicked man that I 
am." They agreed to his re- 
quest. U Raitong said to those 
who were preparing the funeral 
pyre, "When I arrive near the 
funeral pyre, set fire to it before- 
hand, and I will throw myself 
in, and you stand at a distance." 
Then U Raitong went and 
bathed, dressed himself well, 
and, taking his flute, played on 
it as he walked backwards to 
the funeral pyre ; and when he 
arrived close to it, they lighted 
it as he had told them to do. He 
walked three times round the 
pyre, and then planted his flute 
in the earth and threw himself 
into the flames. The queen, too, 
ran quickly and threw herself 
on the pyre also. After U 
Raitong and the queen had 
been burned, a pool of water 
formed in the foundations of the 
pyre, and a bamboo sprang up 
whose leaves grew upside-down. 
From U Raitong's time it has 
become the practice to play the 
flute at funerals as a sign of 
mourning for the departed. 

uta u paitbah kiba ong. " Ym 
knot makna ia uba pli, uba 
kum u ksew, u rniaw, yn nai 
Siem." " Em shu khot wei u 
kynja shinrang briw dei ban 
wan." Te la khot ia u, bad 
haba u la poi tiap uta u khun- 
lung u khymih u sam rykhie 
bad u leit bud ia U Raitong. 
Kumta risa shar u paitbah 
baroh ba U Raitong u la klim 
ia ka mahadei. Te U Siem 
bad la ki Myntri ki la ai hukum 
ban leit pyniap noh ia U Rai- 
tong sharud nong. Te u ong 
"phi da sngowbha shu thaw 
da la ka jingthang ngan thang 
hi ia lade wei nga u riwnar 
ruser. Kumta ki la shah ia 
kata ka jingpan jong u. Te 
U Raitong u la ong ha kita 
kiba thaw jingthang. "Ynda 
iiga poi sha jan jingthang sa 
nang ai ding lypa ngan sa nang 
thang hi, phi kynriah noh sha 
jingngai. Kumta U Raitong 
u wan sum wan sleh, u kup bha 
sem bha, u shim ka sharati u 
put, u leit da kaba iaid dadin 
shaduh jingthang. Te ynda u 
la poi ha jan ki la buh ding 
kumta u la ong ; ynda poi ha 
jingthang u iaid tawiar lai sin 
ia ka, u sih ka sharati ha khyn- 
dew, bad u thang ia lade. Ka 
Mahadei ruh da kaba kyrkieh 
ka la mareh sha kata ka jing- 
thang bad ka ruh ka la thang 
lem hangta ia lade. Kumta 
ynda la ing U Raitong bad kata 
Ka Mahadei, long da ka um ha 
kata ka nongrim jingthang, bad 
mih u shken uba long ka mat 
sha khongpong. Naduh U 
Raitong sa long ka sharati 
haduh mynta ban put iam briw 
ban pynih la ki jingsngowsih 
na ka bynta kiba la iap. 



THE Khasis, like the Alfoors of Poso in Celebes, seem to be 
somewhat reluctant to utter the names of their own imme- 
diate relations, and of other people's also. Parents are very 
frequently called the mother of so and so (the child's name 
being mentioned), or the father of so and so, cf. Ka kmi Jca 
Weri, U kpa u Philip. The actual names of the parents, after 
falling into desuetude, are often entirely forgotten. The origin 
of the practice may be that the Khasis, like the Alfoors, were 
reluctant to mention their parents by name for fear of attracting 
the notice of evil spirits. The practice of teknonomy, however, 
is not confined to the Khasis or the Alfoors of Celebes (see foot- 
note to page 412 of the " Golden Bough "). The custom is also 
believed to have been prevalent to some extent not long ago in 
some parts of Ireland. 

The advent of the Welsh Missionaries and the partial dis- 
semination of English education has in some cases produced 
rather peculiar names. I quote some instances : 

U Water Kingdom, Ka Mediterranean Sea, Ka Red Sea ; U 
Shakewell Bones, U Overland, Ka Brindisi, Ka Medina, Ka 
Mary Jones, U Mission, and Ka India. 


The Khasis adopt the lunar month, u lynai, twelve of which 
go to the year, ka snem. They have no system of reckoning cycles, 


as is the custom with some of the Shan tribes, The following 
are the names of the months : 

U kylla-lyngkot, corresponding to January. This month in 
the Khasi Hills is the coldest in the year. The Khasis turn 
(kylla) the fire-brand (lyngkot) in order to keep themselves 
warm in this month, hence its name kylla-lyngkot. 

U Rymphang, the windy month, corresponding with 

U Lyber, March. In this month the hills are again clothed 
with verdure, and the grass sprouts up (lyler), hence the name 
of the month, u Lyber. 

U laiong, April. This name may possibly be a corruption 
of u lynai-iong, i.e., the black moon, the changeable weather 

U Jymmang, May. This is the month when the plant called 
by the Khasis ufieu jymmang, or snake-plant, blooms, hence 
the name. 

U Jyllieu. The deep water month, the word jyllieu meaning 
deep. This corresponds to June. 

U n&itung. The evil-smelling month, when the vegetation 
rots owing to excessive moisture. This corresponds with July. 

ITndilar. The month when the weather is supposed to 
become clear, synlar, and when the plant called janailar blooms. 
This is August. 

U'n&i-lw. September. The month for weeding the ground. 

U Ri-sdw. The month when the Autumn tints first appear, 
literally, when the country, ri, becomes red, saw. This is 

U'n&i wieng. The month when cultivators fry the produce 
of their fields in wieng or earthen pots, corresponding with 

U Noh-prtih. The month when the prdh or baskets for 
carrying the crops are put away (buh noh). Another interpre- 
tation given by Bivar is " the month of the fall of the leaf." 

The Khasi week has the peculiarity that it almost universally 
consists of eight days. The reason of the eight-day week is 
because the markets are usually held every eighth day. The 
names of the days of the week are not those of planets, but of 


places where the principal markets are held, or used to be held, 
in the Khasi and Jaintia Hills. The following are the names 
of the days of the week and of the principal markets in the 
district : 


1. Lynkah Kyllao. 
(Barpani or Khawang) (Suhtnga). 

2. Nongkrem Pynsing. 

3. Um-Iong Maolong. 
(Maolong the hat at Laban) (Nartiang). 

4. Ranghep Maosiang. 
(leu-bah at Cherra) (Jowai). 
(Mawtawar in Mylliem) 

(Unsaw in Nongkhlaw) 

5. Shillong Maoshai. 
(Laitlyngkot) (Shangpung). 

6. Pomtih or Pomtiah Pynkat. 
(Mawkhar, small market) (Mynso). 

7. Umnih Thym-blein. 

8. Y/eo-duh Ka-hat. 
(Mawkhar, large market) (Jaintiapur). 

In the Wdr country, markets are usually held every fourth 
day, e.g., at Nongjri, Mawbang, Tyllap, and Sheila. At Theria 
the market is held every Friday, and at Hat-majai, or Bholagunj, 
every Tuesday. 


Although mention has been made incidentally in various 
parts of this monograph of Lynngam customs, it has been 
thought necessary to give the Lynngams a separate chapter, as 
these people differ so very greatly from the Khasis in their 
manner of life, and in their customs. Lynngam is the Khasi 
name ; the Garo name for the Lynngams is Megam. There 
are several Megam villages in the north-eastern corner of the 
Garo Hills district, and there is regular communication kept 
up between these villages and the Lynngam inhabitants of the 
Khasi Hills district. The Lynngams must not be confused 
with the Ifdnd or Ndmdaniya Garos who inhabit the low hills 
to the north of the Khasi Hills district, and are called by the 
Khasis J)ko. All Lynngams claim to be Khasis, they dislike 
being called Garos ; but although it is true they speak what 
may be called a dialect of Khasi, and observe some of the Khasi 
customs, the Lynngams are more Garo than Khasi. Before 

From a picture by Mrs. Truniger 


proceeding further, it should be stated that the Assamese of 
Boko called the Lynngams Nuniyd Garos, all hill people being 
Garos to the Assamese of that region, without distinction 
or difference. It is owing to these three different names being 
used for the same people that there has been so much confusion 
about Lynngams previously ; e.g., at one census they were named 
Lynngam, at another they received the appellation of Garo, and 
at a third enumeration they were called Khasis. In Section I. 
the habitat of the Lynngams has been roughly defined. It is 
impossible to define the Lynngam country exactly, because 
these people are continually shifting their village sites 
owing to the exigencies of jhum cultivation, which has been 
described in Section II. Some of the Lynngams preserve 
a tradition that they originally came from the Kamrup 
plains. It is interesting that a people, like the Garos in so 
many respects, should have the same idea as the Garos as to the 
hills on the south bank of the Brahmaputra not always having 
been their abode. The Garo legend is that they dwelt for 
some years in the Goalpara and Kamrup plains after they 
descended from Thibet, and before they moved to the Garo 
Hills ; and there is unmistakable evidence of their occupation of 
both districts in the shape of certain Garo villages on both 
banks of the Brahmaputra for some little distance up the river. 
If, as I suspect, the Lynngams are an offshoot of the Garos, it 
is, perhaps, possible that they entered the Khasi Hills much in 
the same way as the Garos entered the hill district to which 
they have given their name. The Lynngams are much darker 
than the Khasis, and possess the Thibeto-Burman type of 
feature often to a marked degree. It is not extraordinary that 
they should have adopted some of the Khasi customs, for the 
Khasis, being the stronger people, would in course of time be 
bound to influence them in this respect. That the Lynngams 
observe the matriarchate and erect (some clans) memorial 
stones is not peculiar, because the Garos, like the Khasis, are 
also a matriarchal people (to a limited degree), and the custom 
of erecting memorial stones is not confined to the Khasis, for 
other hill tribes in Assam observe the practice, e.g., certain 
Naga tribes and the Mikirs ; and the Garos themselves put up 
carved posts, called kima, in honour of the departed. Although 


194 THE KHASIS vi 

there is not much intermarriage between the Khasis and the 
Lynngams nowadays, perhaps in days gone by there was a 
mixture of blood, the result being the hybrid race we are now 
considering. Some of the leading characteristics of the Lynn- 
gams will now be detailed. The Lynngams are by com- 
plexion swarthy, with features of Mongolian type.- The men 
are of middle height and the women remarkably short, both 
sexes being not nearly so robust as the Khasis, a result due 
probably to climatic influences, for the Lynngams live in fever- 
haunted jungles. The men have very little hair about the face, 
although a scanty moustache is sometimes seen, the hairs in 
the centre being carefully plucked out, the result being two 
tufts on either side. Beards are never seen. The women are 
ill-favoured, and wear very little clothing. The men wear the 
sleeveless coat of the Khasi and Mikir pattern, called phong- 
marong, which is made of cotton dyed red, blue, and white. This 
custom may have been borrowed from the Khasis. They do 
not grow their own cotton, but obtain it from the plains. They 
make their own dyes, changlong (red) and hur sai-iong (black). 
A cotton cloth, barely enough for purposes of decency, is tied 
between the legs, the ends being allowed to hang down in front 
and behind. Sometimes an apron is worn in front. At the 
present day the men wear knitted woollen caps, generally black 
or red, of the Nongstoin pattern (a sort of fisherman's cap), but 
the elderly men and head-men wear turbans. The females wear 
a cotton cloth about eighteen inches broad round the loins, some- 
times striped red and blue, but more often only dark blue. A blue 
or red cloth is thrown loosely across the shoulders by unmarried 
girls, but married women only wear the waist-cloth, like the 
Garos. A cloth is tied round the head by married women, 
sometimes, Garo fashion. The women wear quantities of blue 
beads as necklaces, like their Garo sisters. They obtain the 
beads from the Garo markets at the foot of the hills. Brass 
ear-rings are worn by both sexes ; the women, like the Garos, 
load their ears to such an extent with brass rings as to distend 
the lobes greatly. Silver armlets are worn by the head-men 
only, or by those who possess the means to give a great feast to 
the villagers. This is the custom of the Garo nokmas, or head- 
men. Both sexes wear bracelets. The men also wear neck- 

From a drawing by Mrs. Triiniger 


laces of beads. The rich wear necklaces of cornelian and 
another stone which is thought by the Lynngams to be valuable. 
A necklace of such stones is called u'pieng blei (god's necklace). 
This stone is apparently some rough gem which may be picked 
up by the Lynngams in the river beds. A rich man amongst 
them, however, is one who possesses a number of metal gongs, 
which they call wiang. For these they pay very high prices, 
Rs. 100 being quite a moderate sum for one of them. Being 
curious to see one of these gongs, I asked a sirdar, or head- 
man, to show me one. He replied that he would do so, 
but it would take time, as he always buried his gongs in 
the jungle for fear of thieves. Next morning he brought 
me a gong of bell metal, with carvings of animals engraved 
thereon. The gong when struck gave out a rich deep note 
like that of Burmese or Thibetan gongs. These gongs have 
a regular currency in this part of the hills, and represent 
to the Lynngams " Bank of England " notes. It would be 
interesting to try to ascertain what is their history, for 
no one in the Lynngam country makes them in these days. 
Is it possible that the Garos brought them with them when 
they migrated from Thibet ? The gongs are well known in the 
Garo Hills, and I hear that when a nokma, or head-man, there 
dies his corpse is laid out upon them. They thus possess also 
an element of sanctity, besides being valuable for what they 
will fetch to the Garos or Lynngams. For a further description 
of them Major Playfair's " Garos" may be referred to. 

The Lynngams do not tattoo. Their weapons are the large- 
headed Garo spear, the dao, and the shield. They do not usually 
carry bows and arrows, although there are some who possess 
them. They are by occupation cultivators. They sow two 
kinds of hill rice, red and white, on the hill-sides. They have 
no wet paddy cultivation, and they do not cultivate in terraces 
like the Nagas. They burn the jungle about February, after 
cutting down some of the trees, and clearing away some of the 
debris, and then sow the paddy broadcast, without cultivating 
the ground in any way. They also cultivate millet and Jobs- 
tears in the same way. With the paddy chillies are sown the 
first year. The egg plant, arum, ginger, turmeric, and sweet 
potatoes of several varieties are grown by them in a similar 

o 2 

196 THE KHASIS vi 

manner. Those that rear the lac insect plant landoo trees 
(Hindi arhal daX) in the forest clearings, and rear the insect 
thereon. Some of these people, however, are prohibited by a 
custom of their own from cultivating the landoo, in which 
case they plant certain other trees favourable to the growth of 
the lac insect. The villages are situated near their patches of 
cultivation in the forest. The villages are constantly shifting, 
owing to the necessity of burning fresh tracts of forest every 
two years. The houses are entirely builb of bamboo, and, for 
such temporary structures, are very well built. In front, the 
houses are raised some 3 or 4 ft. from the ground on plat- 
forms, being generally built on the side of a fairly steep 
hill, one end of the house resting on the ground, and the other 
on bamboo posts. The back end of the house is some- 
times some 8 or 9 ft. from the ground. At the end of the 
house farthest away from the village path is a platform used 
for sitting out in the evening, and for spreading chillies and 
other articles to dry. Some Lynngam houses have only one 
room in which men, women, and children are all huddled 
together, the hearth being in the centre, and, underneath the 
platform, the pigs. Well-to-do people, however, possess a 
retiring room, where husband and wife sleep. A house 
I measured at Nongsohbar village was of the following 
dimensions: Length, 42 ft.; breadth, 16 ft. ; height of house 
from the ground to the eaves, front, 9 ft. ; back, 18 ft. Houses 
are built with a portion of the thatch hanging over the eaves 
in front. No explanation could be given me for this. It is 
probably a Garo custom. In some Lynngam villages there are 
houses in the centre of the village where the young unmarried 
men sleep, where male guests are accommodated, and where the 
village festivities go on. These are similar to the dekachang or 
bachelors' club-houses of the Mikirs, Garos, and Lalungs, and to 
the morang of the Nagas. This is a custom of the Thibeto- 
Burman tribes in Assam, and is not a Khasi institution. There 
are also high platforms, some 12 ft. or 15 ft. in height, in 
Lynngam villages, where the elders sit of an evening in the hot 
weather and take the air. Lynngam houses and villages are 
usually much cleaner than the ordinary Khasi villages, and 
although the Lynngams keep pigs, they do not seem to be so 

From a drawing by Mrs. Trfinigcr 


much en Evidence as in the Khasi village. There is little 
or no furniture in a Lynngam house. The Lynngam sleeps on 
a mat on the floor, and in cold weather covers himself with a 
quilt, made out of the bark of a tree, which is beaten 
out and then carefully woven, several layers of flattened 
bark being used before the right thickness is attained. 
This quilt is called by the Lynngams "Kasyllar" (Garo simpak}. 
Food is cooked in earthen pots, but no plates are used, the broad 
leaves of the mariang tree taking their place. The leaves are 
thrown away after use, a fresh supply being required for each 

The Lynngams brew rice beer, they do not distil spirit ; the 
beer is brewed according to the Khasi method. Games they have 
none, and there are no jovial archery meetings like those of the 
Khasis. The Lynngam methods of hunting are setting spring 
guns and digging pitfalls for game. The people say that now 
the Government and the Siem of Nongstoin have prohibited 
both of these methods of destroying game, they no longer 
employ them. But I came across a pitfall for deer in the 
neighbourhood of a village in the Lynngam country. The 
people declared it to be a very old one ; but this I very much 
doubt, and I fear that these objectionable methods of hunting 
are still used. The Lynngams fish to a small extent with nets, 
but their idea of fishing, par excellence, is poisoning the streams, 
an account of which has already been given in this Monograph. 
The Lynngams are omnivorous feeders, they may be said to 
cat everything except dogs, snakes, the hiduk monkey, and 
lizards. They like rice, when they can get it ; for sometimes 
the out-turn of their fields does not last them more than a few 
months. They then have to fall back on jobstears and millet. 
They eat arums largely, and for vegetables they cook wild 
plantains and the young shoots of bamboos and cane plants. 
The Lynngams are divided up into exogamous clans in the same 
manner as the Khasis. The clans are overgrown families. The 
Lynngams have some stories regarding the founders of these 
clans, of which the following is a specimen : " A woman was 
asleep under a sohbar tree in the jungle, a flower from which 
fell on her, and she conceived and bore a female child who was 
the ancestress of the Nongsohbar clan." Some of the stories of 

198 THE KHASIS vi 

the origins of other clans do not bear repeating. There do not 
appear to be any hypergamous groups. As with the Khasis, it 
is a deadly sin to marry anyone belonging to your own kur y or 
clan. Unlike the Khasis, however, a Lynngam can marry two 
sisters at a time. The Lynngam marriages are arranged by 
ksiangs, or go-betweens, much in the same way as Khasi 
marriages ; but the ritual observed is less elaborate, and shows 
a mixture of Khasi and Garo customs (see Section III.). The 
Lynngams intermarry with the Garos. It appears that some- 
times the parents of girls exact bride-money, and marriages by 
capture have been heard of. Both of these customs are more 
characteristic of the Bodo tribes of the plains than of the 
Khasis. There are no special birth customs, as with the Khasis, 
except that when the umbilical cord falls a fowl is sacrificed, 
and the child is brought outside the house. Children are 
named without any special ceremony. The death customs of 
the Lynngams have been described in Section III. A peculiar 
characteristic is the keeping of the dead body in the house for 
days, sometimes even for several months, before it is burnt. 
The putrefying corpse inside the house seems to cause these 
people no inconvenience, for whilst it remains there, they eat, 
carry on their ordinary avocations, and sleep there, regardless 
of what would be considered by others an intolerable nuisance. 
The religion of these people consists of a mixture of ancestor- 
worship and the propitiation of the spirits of fell and fall, which 
are, most of them, believed to be of evil influence, as is the case 
with other savage races. As with the people of Nongstoin 
the primaeval ancestress, " ka law bei" is worshipped for the 
welfare of the clan, a sow being sacrificed to her, with a gourd 
of rice-beer, and leaves of the oak, or dieng-sning tree. The 
leaves of the oak are afterwards hung up inside the house, 
together with the jaw-bone of the pig. Sacrifices are offered 
to a forest demon, U Bangjang (a god who brings illness), by 
the roadside ; also to Ka Miang Bylli U Majymma, the god of 
cultivation, at seed time, on the path to the forest clearing 
where the seed is sown. Models of paddy store-houses, baskets 
and agricultural implements are made, sand being used to 
indicate the grain. These are placed by the roadside, the skulls 
of the sacrificial animals and the feathers of fowls being hung 


up on bamboos about the place where the sacrifice has been 
performed. There are no priests or lyngdohs, the fathers of the 
hamlet performing the various ceremonies. The Lynngams 
possess no head-hunting customs, as far as it has been possible 
to ascertain. These people are still wild and uncivilised. 
Although they do not, as a rule, give trouble, from an adminis- 
trative point of view, a very serious dacoity, accompanied by 
murder, was committed by certain Lynngams at an Assamese 
village on the outskirts of the Lynngam country a few years 
ago. The victims were two Merwari merchants and their 
servant, as well as another man. These people were brutally 
murdered by the Lynngams, and robbed of their property. 
The offenders were successfully traced, however, and arrested 
by Inspector Raj Mohan Das, 1 and several of them suffered 
capital punishment, the remainder being transported for life. 

1 Now Deputy-Superintendent Raj Mohan Das. 



SINCE the first edition of this book appeared in 1907 research 
into the mutual relationships of the Mon-Khmer languages, of 
which the Khasi language forms a portion of one group, has 
been carried far forward by Pater P. W. Schmidt of Vienna. 
Sir George Grierson, reviewing the work " Die Mon-Khmer- 
Volker Zentralasiens und Austronesiens, etc./' by Pater Schmidt, 
pp. 187-191, Vol I. of 1907 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic 
Society states that " Pater Schmidt's researches into the 
mutual relationship of the Mon-Khmer languages are familiar 
to students of the languages of Further India. His best 
known works in this connection are the essays on Sakei and 
Lemang (aboriginal languages of Malacca), on Mon-Khmer 
Phonology, and on that of Khasi. Logan and Forbes had 
discussed this question previously, but the foundations of 
scientific research were first laid down by Professor E. Kuhn of 
Munich in his masterly " Beitrage zur Sprachenkunde 
Hinterindiens " (1889), and on this Pater Schmidt has built the 
edifice of which the work of Professor Kuhn is the coping-stone. 
Pater Schmidt's former works had shown that there exists in 
Further India an important group of languages, embracing 
Mon, Khmer, Palaung, Wa, and a number of other minor forms 
of speech (including the aboriginal dialects of the Malay 
Peninsula) which was neither Thibeto-Burman nor Sinitic, but 
was independent of both, while on the other hand it was closely 
connected with the Khasi spoken in Central Assam.'"' Sir 
George Grierson in proceeding to discuss the connection of the 
Munda languages with Mon-Khmer states that there are 
" presented to our view, a group of cognate languages reaching 
from the Panjab, through Central India, Assan>, the Nicobars, 

vii LANGUAGE 201 

and Further India, to the Malay Peninsula. This group of 
Mon-Khmer-Malacca-Munda-Nicobar-Khasi tongues Pater 
Schmidt names the Austroasiatic languages. They are not 
Aryan, and they are not Thibeto-Sinitic, but form an indepen- 
dent group, the mutual relationship of which may now be taken 
to be as surely established as that of the various members of 
the Indo-European family. These fall into the following 
sub-groups : 

I (a) Lemang III (a) Mon-Khmer. 

(&) Senoi, Sakei and (b) Munda. 

Tembe. (c) Cham, etc. 

II (a) Khasi. 
(5) Nicobar. 
(c) Wa, Palaung, Reang. 

Pater Schmidt " concludes that the first two are in a stage of 
development earlier than that of the last, a fact which is 
important for determining the relative times of the migration 
of each group to its present seat." In the year 1899 Pater 
Schmidt summing up the knowledge then available concerning 
the languages of Oceania proposed for them the name Austro- 
nesian, which includes three mutually related sub-groups the 
Indonesian, the Melanesian, and the Polynesian. Pater 
Schmidt includes the Austroasiatic and Austronesian languages 
in one " great united whole " which he calls the Austric 
(Austrisch) family. He bases his proof on the following 
facts : 

(1) The complete agreement of their phonetic systems. 

(2) The original identity of their systems of word-building. 

(3) The agreement in important and striking points of 

grammar, especially: 

(a) The genitive following the governing word ; 
(5) The employment of possessive affixes, sometimes even 
identical in form ; 

(c) The occurrence of two forms of the plural of the first 

personal pronoun, one exclusive, the other inclusive ; 

(d) The occurrence in several languages of the dual and 

of the trial numbers. 

(4) The widely extended agreement in vocabulary. 

202 THE KHAS1S vn 

The following further interesting remarks of Sir George 
Grierson may be quoted : " When we consider the vast extent of 
the globe which Pater Schmidt has shown to be covered by 
people speaking various members of one family of languages, 
and perhaps by people all of one race a tract reaching from 
the Panjab in the west to Easter Island, off the coast of South 
America, in the East ; from the Himalaya in the North to New 
Zealand in the South we must confess that it is the most 
widely spread speech family of which the existence has yet 
been proved. The stream of migration appears to have started, 
not from the middle, but from the extreme western end of the 
whole tract, and thence to have worked eastwards and south- 

I append some examples of agreement in vocabularies of some 
of the languages of the Austro-asiatic group. 

The examples of comparative vocabularies which follow are 
taken from Kuhn's Beitrdge zur Sprachenkunde Hinterindiens, 
Sir George Scott's Upper Burma Gazatteer, and Sir George 
Campbell's lists. It will be seen from the collections of words that 
follow how Khasi possesses many words in common with Mon or 
Talaing, Khmer, Suk, Stieng, Bahnar, Annam, Khamen-Boram, 
Xong, Samre, Khmu, Lemet, Palaung, and Wa. There is some 
correspondence, although perhaps to a lesser degree, between 
Khasi and the Ho-Munda languages and those of Malacca and 
the Nancowry language of the Nicobar Islands. 

Let us now examine the table of numerals. The Khasi word 
for 1 is wei, but in the Amwi dialect of Khasi it is mi. In 
Khmu the word is mui, also in Suk ; in Mon mwoi and in Xong 
moi. The word for 2 is identical in Khasi and Lemet, viz. ar. 
The word for 3, viz. lai y is identical in Khasi and Wa; also 
compare Lemet lohe. Khasi saw and Lakadong thaw for 4 
are, however, deviating forms. In the case of 5, if we cut out 
the prefix m in the Mon word m'sun, we have fairly close 
agreement with the Khasi san. In the numeral 6, if we cut 
out the prefix hin of the Khasi (hin)riw, and the initial t of 
Mon and Suk t'rou, trou, we have close agreement. In the 
Khasi words for 7 and 8 the syllable hin is but a prefix. This 
is also probably the case in the Khasi word (khyn)dai for 9, and 
the shi in the Khasi word shiphew, 10, merely means one. 








s ca ^ a | 
i 1 S, 1 I J 

1 1 1 

44 44 44 S 



| g o < g 1 

G p^ &4 p^ eu -^ 



S> ^ a s f 

S rt o O 2 s- 


~ .~ 8 

2 3 -3 

bO 44 44 3 


o c ^ 

^H c3 cS <O >^3 a 

C 43 42 X? C. S 

>. s .s is 

eg eg X3 ,-C 
42 4_> So 




^ c^ O 

'o.S S g *2 ^ 

Q r- 1 < Q* ^ p, _^j 

& S 
< JJ; '^ g) 

o *o" "cT .5 : t2 

1 s 3 1 1 1 

S 42 p, &i p4 PH 

3 "*"* 
43 3 ^ G <u 
,0 43 <g - 


1 j & -1 ! 1 

J ,d ^ 

'pL ^j 44 "c3 

. ) 

'p s 

c j 8 

SicS -jj oo '",-j ^ 
XJ P-i P-i C ^- 

43 - 

o3 c3 ft> -H 
^Pn "o ^ * 


a be "* 
a H -- 1 o o P< 

^ CO CJ rj J3 J3 

'o 'o o> -g 

PH 44 44 g 

^3 ^C! J3 c3 

4-> -^ -*^> f- 


rH Ol CO ^ >O CP 

I 00 Oi O 




Dialects of Khasi. 

b tt) 

"* *SL "^ 

1 A 3 8 i 1 1 I 1 ! 



>, 0) 5 

o 1 * * * & 

d * d 2 > -H" 

g Sr3 g ? ? 'pL 44 " 

d ^ 1 3 5 

d 1 5 a a I* 

'3 oj:2^cJdd^d 

d O ! 03 02 ^-> t>i ^S ^3 co 



^d 8 "cS ._H 

;, >> "^ S 

,g ,g g s g 4 g ^ 


s-< !-< d p t 

s ^ ^ d .? .? | 3 


1 ? ^ '1^ q, " - 

5 223 1 I-f^l-lj'-sJ j 



C3 d 
^, ^^ 0-3 cB SjS 


if , | ? g ^ ? 4 e -3 
s^a 3 js p-3? & 5 P. 5 *43 44 


^ - if-, i . 

gjg 0) d^Q ^.^ <* 


vii LANGUAGE 205 

It will be seen that there is considerable similarity in the 
numerals of the different languages up to six, the correspon- 
dence being most strongly marked in the numerals 1, 2, 5, and 
6. If we remember that primitive people seldom can count 
higher than the number of digits of one hand, the dissimilarity 
in the numerals, as the end of the decade is approached, is 
probably explained. As the different people speaking these 
languages gradually advanced in civilisation they learned to 
count further ; but by this time they had become in some cases 
like those of the Khasis, the Palaungs, and Mons, widely 
separated from one another. As they advanced in civilisation 
and found the necessity of an improved notation, they manu- 
factured numerals which differed from one another, although 
they retained the first few numerals they had made use of in 
their days of savagery. Let us now study some extracts from 
Kuhn's interesting comparative vocabulary. 1 We find many 
instances of agreement. I give some examples : 

Heaven. Palaung, pleng ; Khmer, plieng (rain) ; Xong, pleng ; 
Khasi, bueng. Mynnar (Jirang) phanliang seems to be very 
near Khmer phlieng, and Palaung, and Xong pleng. 

Day (Sun). Khmer, thngay ; Mon tngoi ; Annam, ngay ; 
Lemet, ngay pri ; Palaung, sengei ; Khasi, sngi ; Lakadong 
sngoi ; Kol, singi. 

Year. Mon, sndm ; Annam, nam ; Stieng, so'nam \ Bahnar, 
sanam ; Khasi, snem. 

Lightning. Mon, Fli ; Khasi, leilih. 

Stone, Rock. Mon, tma, k'maw ; Stieng, to'mdu; Bahn, 
tmo, temo ; Khmer, thma ; Xong, tmo ; Palaung, mau ; Ba, 
maou ; Khasi, maw ; Wa, hsi-mo, hsi-mao. Also compare 
Mynnar (Jirang) smaw. 

Water. Palaung, em ; Khasi, um ; Lakadong, am ; Amwi, 
am ; Mynnar (Jirang), dm ; Rumai, om. Probably the Stieng 
urn, to bathe, can be connected with the Khasi word for 

Sea, pond, or tank. Khmer, ping ; Khasi, pung. 

Eice. Mon, sro, paddy, seems to be in connection with 
Khmer, srur (spoken srau or srou)? Xong ruko is in Palaung 
rekao, sakao or takao. These words remind us of the Khasi 

1 Kuhn's Beitrage zur Sprachenkunde Hinterindiens. 2 Ibid. 

206 THE KHASIS vn 

khaw, which seems to be borrowed from the Shan khaw (hkao 

Dog. The common word for this animal will be found to be 
nearly the same in sound in many of these languages, e.g., Suk, 
cho ; Stieng, sou ; Bahnar, ko, cho ; Annam, cho ; Xong, tcho ; 
Mi, khmu; Lemet, so; Palaung, tsao, hsao; Khasi, ksew. 
The Mon kliluiw is the same as the Khasi Icsew, if 1 is changed 
into s. The Lakadong and Synteng dialects of Khasi have 
ksaw, and Mynnar (Jirang) ksow. 

Eat, moiise. Mon, kni, qni ; Stieng, Jco'nei ; Bahnar, kone ; 
Khasi, khnai. 

Swine. Bahnar niung is evidently Khasi 'niang, the abbre- 
viated form of sniang. 

Tiger. Mon, Ida ; Stieng, Id&h ; Bahnar, Ida ; Khmer, khld ; 
and Khasi, khld are evidently the same. With this compare 
the Kol kula, kula, kuld. 

Bird. Sue, Idem ; Mon, gcem, ka-tsim ; Hiiei, chiem ; Stieng, 
chum ; Bahnar, Annam, chim ; Xong, chiem ; Palaung and Wa, 
hsim, and Khasi sim are clearly the same. Also compare 
Mynnar (Jirang), ksem which is very near to Mon, g'cem. 

Fowl. Hiiei, kat, yar ; Suk, yer ; Bahnar, ir ; Stieng, i&r ; 
Khmu, ycr ; Lemet, er ; Palaung, her, arid Khasi, siar, abbre- 
viated into 'iar, are probably the same. 

Fish. The word ka or kha runs through the following 
languages: Mon, Stieng, Bahnar, Annam, Khmu, Lemet, 
Palaung, Wa ; and if we cut off the first syllable of the Khasi 
word for fish, dohkha, we find 'kha, which is the same word 
as in the languages above mentioned, with an aspirate added. 
The Khasi doh merely means flesh, and the word dohkha is very 
frequently abbreviated, cf. 'kha saw, 'kha iong. 

Crab. Mon, kh'tdm ; Khmer, ktdm ; Khasi, thdm. If we 
add the gender sign to the Khasi word, it becomes ka thdm,&nd 
we have exact correspondence. 

Woman. Mon, brou or brao. Is this the same as the Khasi 
(ka) briw ? 

Child. So, kdn ; Suk, Icon ; Mon, kon ; Hiiei, kuon ; Annam, 
kon ; Khmer, kun ; Khasi, khun. Compare Nancowry, kon. 

Eye. The word m&t, mat, mat, runs through several of these 
languages, e.g., Mon, mat ; Hiiei, mat ; Stieng, mat ; Bahnar, 

vii LANGUAGE 207 

mat; Annam, mat; Khasi, khmat (dialectic mat}. In Nan- 
cowry compare olmat, eye, and okmat, eyebrow, and (e) mat (hen) 
mat (drug), mat, of the Nicobar dialects, also Semang mat, met, 
med. Kuhn remarks that the word mat is common for " sight," 
and "eye" all over the Malay Archipelago. It should be 
remarked that in the Amwi and Lakadong dialects of Khasi the 
word is mat. 

Nose. If we cut off the aspirate kh from the Khasi khmut, 
which thus becomes mut, we find some correspondence between 
Mon, muh (mu) ; Stieng (tro\ muh ; Bahnar, muh. Here also 
compare Ho, mua, muta ; Mundari, mun ; Uraon, moy. In 
the Anwi and Lakadong dialects of Khasi the word is 

Hand. Xong, ti ; Mon, toi; Annam, tay ; Khmer, te (from 
sang te, finger) ; Palaung, tae, tai, and Khasi, kti (with prefix Ic) 
closely correspond. The forms ta and toi of Anwi, and Laka- 
dong, respectively, still more closely correspond with the 
Mon-Khmer languages than with Khasi. Here compare Nan- 
cowry tei and ti, or ti of the Kol languages. 

Blood. Palaung hnam, and Wa nam closely correspond with 
Khasi snam ; here compare Khmer jhdm. 

Horn. Mon, grang, the horn of an animal, may be compared 
with the Khasi reng. 

Far. Distant, Bahnar, hangai ; Annam, ngai ; Khmer, 
chhngay ; Lemet, sngay ; Sue, chngai may be compared with 
the Khasi jing-ngai. Anwi shnjngoi seems to be a closer form 
to the above than Khasi jing-ngai. But compare Mynnar 
(Jirang), chngi, which is clearly very close to Sue chngai, and 
Khmer chhngay. 

To weep, to cry. Mon, yam ; Khmer, yam ; Khmu Lemet 
and Palaung, yam, are clearly the same as Khasi iam, with 
which also may be compared Ho yam. 

It is interesting to note that the Amwi and Lakadong dia- 
lects of Khasi, which are spoken by the people who dwell on the 
southern slopes of the Jaintia Hills, seem more closely to corre- 
spond with the Mon-Khmer forms than even with Khasi. The 
Mynnar or Jirang dialect of Khasi, spoken on the extreme 
north of the hills, also appears to possess some words which are 
very similar indeed to some of the Mon-Khmer forms given by 

208 THE KHASIS vn 

Professor Kuhn. Unfortunately, I have not had time to collect 
more than a few words of this interesting dialect. The Mynnar 
dialect appears to be akin to the Synteng, Lakadong, and 
Amwi forms of speech. The Mynnars observe also the Synteng 
ceremony of " Eeh-ding-Jchlam" or driving away the demon of 
cholera, so that although now inhabiting a part of the country 
a considerable distance away from that of the Syntengs, it is 
not unlikely that they were originally connected with the latter 
more closely. 

Professor Kuhn comes to the conclusion that there is a distinct 
connection between Khasi, Mon or Talaing, Khmer, and the 
other languages of Indo-China that have been mentioned, which 
is to be seen not only from similarities in some of the numerals, 
but from the convincing conformities of many other words of 
these languages. He goes on to add that more important than 
these contacts of the mono-syllabic languages of Indo-China 
with mono-syllabic Khasi is their affinity with the Kol and 
Nancowry poly-syllabic languages and with that of the aboriginal 
inhabitants of Malacca, i.e., the languages of the so-called Orang- 
Outang, or men of the woods, Sakei, Semung, Orang-Benua, 
and others ; and that although it is not, perhaps, permissible to 
derive at once from this connection the relation of the Khasi 
Mon-Khmer mono-syllabic group with these poly-syllabic 
languages, it seems to be certain that a common substratum 
lies below a great portion of the Indo-Chinese languages 
as well as those of the Kol and Ho-Munda group. More 
important than connections between words is, as Sir George 
Grierson points out in his introduction to the Mon-Khmer 
family, the order of the words in the sentence. In both Khasi 
and Mon that order is subject, verb, object. Taking this fact 
in conjunction with the similarities of the Khasi and Mon 
vocabularies, we may conclude that it is proof positive of the 
connection between Khasi and Mon, or Talaing. In Munda, 
however, the order is subject, object, verb. This is a very im- 
portant difference, for, as Sir George Grierson points out, the 
order of words in a sentence follows the order of thought of the 
speaker ; it follows therefore that the Mundas think in an order 
of ideas different from those of the Khasis and the Mons. Sir 
George Grierson's cordial endorsement, however, of Pater 

vii LANGUAGE 209 

Schmidt's conclusions regarding the interconnection of the 
languages of Schmidt's Austro-Asiatic group may be found 
on pp. 748-750 of the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 
Vol. III. of 1907. 

The brief description which follows of some of the more pro- 
minent characteristics of the Khasi language is based chiefly on 
Sir Charles Lyall's skeleton Grammar contained in Vol. II. of 
Sir George Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India. It does 
not pretend to be an exhaustive treatise on the language ; for 
this students are referred to the excellent grammar compiled by 
the Rev. H. Roberts. 

The Article. There are four articles in Khasi ; three in the 
singular, u (masculine), ka (feminine), and i (diminutive of 
both genders) ; and one in the plural for both genders, ki. 

All Khasi nouns take a pronominal prefix to denote the gender, 
i.e., the third personal pronoun, u (masculine), ka (feminine), 
i (diminutive). The great majority of inanimate nouns are 
feminine, and all abstract nouns. The sun (day), ka sngi, is 
feminine, the moon (month), u Vnai, is masculine. Sometimes 
the word varies in meaning according to the gender, e.g., u ngap, 
a bee ; ka ngap, honey. 

Genders. Names of mountains, stones, plants, fruits, stars, 
and the moon, are masculine, e.g. : 

U kyllang, the Kyllang rock. 

U mawlein, quartz. 

U phan y potato. 

U soh niamtra, orange. 

U'lur shaiy the morning star. 

Vtiw kulap t rose. 

U b'naiy the moon. 

Names of rivers, lakes, books, places, the sun, and all abstract 
nouns are feminine, e.g. : 

Ka wah, river. 
Ka nan> lake. 
Ka kitap, book. 
Ka Shillong, Shillong. 
Ka mgi, sun. 
Kajinganeng, advice. 

The article i is used either as a diminutive, as i khunlung, a 
baby, or for denoting endearment, as i mei, mother. 


210 THE KHASIS vil 

Number. U t Tea, and i stand for the singular number, e.g., 
u Jchla (a tiger), ka khoh (a Khasi basket), i khun (a child). Ki 
is the sign of the plural, as ki maw, the stones. Ki in some 
few instances is used honorifically, as ki Siem, the king, ki 
kthaw, the father-in-law. 

Cases are eight in number, and are denoted by prefixes. The 
declension of the noun lum (hill) is given below by way of 
example : 


Nominative . . u lum ki lum 

Accusative . ia u lum ia ki lum. 

Instrumental . da u lum da ki lum. 

Dative . . . ia, ha, or sha u lum ia, ha, or aha ki lum. 

Ablative . . na u lum na ki lum. 

Genitive . . . Jong u lum jong ki lum. 

Locative . ha u lum ha ki lum. 

Vocative . . ko lum ko phi ki lum. 

The sign of the genitive case, jong, is sometimes omitted for 
the sake of brevity, e.g., u ksew nga (my dog) for u ksew jong 
nga. The preposition la gives also the force of the possessive 
case, e.g., la kajong kajong (their own). There are some nouns 
which change their form, or rather are abbreviated when used 
in the vocative case, e.g., ko mei, not ko kmei = Oh mother ; ko 
pa not ko kpa = Oh father. These, however, are all of them 
nouns showing relationship. 

Pronouns. Personal pronouns are nga (I), ngi (we), me 
(thou, masculine), pha (thou, feminine), phi, you (masculine or 
feminine), u (he, it), ka (she, it), i (diminutive form of u or 
ka), and ki (they). 

The emphatic form of the personal pronoun is formed by 
prefixing ma t e.g., ma-nga, ma-u, after a verb, but not after a 
preposition, e.g., dei-ma-nga~ii is I. But ai ia ma nga is an 
incorrect form. 

The Reflexive Pronoun is formed by the word lade (self) 
being suffixed to the personal pronoun, as u, leh sniu ia lade = . 
he does himself harm, or by the addition of the word (hi) self to 
the personal pronoun, as phi hi phi ong (you yourself). 

The Relative Pronoun is formed by the suffix la, added to 
any of the personal pronouns, as kala, uba, kiba (who, which). 

vii LANGUAGE 211 

The Demonstrative Pronoun is formed by the addition of 
the particles denoting the position of things with reference to 
the speaker, e.g., (1) near = this, ne (u-ne, kane y i-ne, ki-ne) ; 
(2) in sight, but further off = that, to (uto, &c.) ; (3) further 
away, but still visible = that, tai (tt-tai, &c.); (4) out of sight 
or only contemplated in the mind = that, ta (ic-ta, &c.) ; (5) above 
= that, tei (u-tei, &c.) ; (6) below = this, thi (ka-thi, &c.) ; katai- 
tai, katei-tei, kathie-thie, point to an object at a great distance 
but within sight. 

The Interrogative Pronoun is the article followed by no or ei 
(e.g., ^-710, kano y who), u-ei, ka-ei (who, which). Ei is often 
used without the " article," and no (which is restricted to persons) 
when declined, regularly drops the " article," e.g., jong-no 
whose ? ia-no y whom ? sha-no, to whom ? What ? neuter, is aiuh, 
and also Jcaei. 

Adjectives are formed by prefixing ba to the root, thus bha, 
goodness ; ba-bha, good ; sniu, badness ; ba-sniu, bad. When 
ba is dropped, the word is no longer an adjective but a verb, and 
in some cases a noun, e.g., uba khraw (adj. ) = big, great; u khraw 
= he becomes great. An adjective may be formed without any 
of the prefixes ba, uba, &c., e.g., ka miau-tuh = a, thieving cat. 

An adjective follows the noun it qualifies, and agrees with the 
noun it qualifies in gender and number. 

Comparison. The comparative is formed by adding kham 
before an adjective, followed by ban ia (than), or simply ia, 
and the superlative by adding such adverbs of intensity as tarn, 
eh, eh than, tarn eh, shikaddei, which are followed generally by 
ia or ban ia. 

Numerals. In Khasi the cardinal number always precedes 
the noun (e.g., lai sin, three times). The following are the first 
ten numerals. 

1. Wei. 6. Hinriu. 

2. Ar. 7. Hinnieu. 

3. Lai. 8. Phra. 

4. Sau. 9. Khyndai. 

5. San. 10. Shipheu. 

The word khad is prefixed for forming the numerals from 11 
to 19, e.g., Jchad-weiy khad-ae, eleven, twelve, &c. 

P 2 




The verbal root (which never varies) may be simple or 
compound. The compound roots are (1) causals, formed by 
prefixing pyn to the simple root ; as iap, die ; pijniap, kill. 
(2) Frequentatives, formed by prefixing wi ; as iam, weep ; iai 
iam, weep continually. (3) Inceptives, by prefixing man ; as stad, 
be wise ; manstad, grow wise. (4) Reciprocals, by prefixing ia ; 
as ieit, love ; ia-ieit, love one another. (5) Intensives, by prefixing 
the particle kyn, lyn, syn, tyn. Any noun or adjective may be 
treated as a verbal root by means of a prefix of these five 
classes. Thus kajia, a quarrel (Hindustani loan word, qazia ;) 
ia kajia, to quarrel with one another ; bynta, share ; pyn-ia- 
bynta (reciprocal causal), to divide between several persons. It 
should be mentioned with reference to the second class or 
frequentative verbs, that they sometimes take the prefixes, or 
particles as Roberts prefers to call them, dem, dup, nang, shait, 
ksaw in place of iai, e.g., dem-wan, to come after; dicp-leh, to 
practise ; nang-wad, to go on searching ; shait pang, to be always 
ill ; ksaw-bam, to be in the habit of devouring. There are two 
verbs for " to be," long, implying existence absolutely, and don, 
implying limited existence, and also meaning "to have." 
There is only one form of conjugation for all verbs. Tense and 
mood are indicated by prefixes, number and person by the 
subject. When the subject is a noun the pronoun is inserted 
before the verb. The following is the conjugation of the verb 
" to be " in the present, past, and future tenses : 
















Ngin long 
We shall be 

Nga long 
I am 

Ngi long 
We are 

Nga la long 
I was 

Ngi la long 
We were 

Ngan long 
I shall be 

Me (mas.) or 
pha (fern.) 
Thou art 

Phi long 
Ye are 

Me or pha la 
Thou wast 

Phi la long 
Ye were 

Men or phan 
Thou shait 

Phin long 
You shall be 

U (mas.) or 
ka (fern.) 
He or she is 

Ki long 
They are 

U or ka la 
He or she 

Ki la long 
They were 

U'n or ka'n 
He or she 
will be 

Kin long 
They will 

vii LANGUAGE 213 

The above simple tenses are made definite or emphatic 
by various means. La, sign of the past, when added to 
lah, sign of the potential, has the sense of the pluperfect, 
e.g., nga la lah long, I had been. Yn abbreviated into f n 
emphasises the future, the particle sa also indicates the future ; 
da is the usual sign of the subjunctive mood, lada, la, lymda, 
tad, ynda, ban, da are other signs of this mood. The sign of 
the infinitive is ba'n. The imperative is either (1) the simple 
root, or (2) the root compounded with some word such as to. 

Participles. The present participle is formed by prefixing ba 
to the root, e.g., ba long, being. The imperfect participle is 
formed by prefixing such words as ba u, ka da, da kaba, &c. 
The perfect participle is formed by putting such particles as ba 
la, haba la, da kaba la before the verb. Verbal nouns of 
agency are formed by prefixing nong, to the root, e.g., u nong knia 
(the sacrificer). ^The Passive Voice is formed by using the verb 
impersonally, and putting the subject into the Accusative case 
with ia t ) 

Potentiality is indicated by the verb lah, necessity by the 
verb dei ; dang and da show the indefinite present. 

The negative is indicated by the particles ym, contracted into 
'm, shym, and pat. Ym is put before the verb, e.g., 'ym don briew 
= there is no one ; with a pronoun it is contracted, e.g., u'm wan y 
he does not come. It follows the sign of the future, e.g.,phi'n 
i/m wan, you will not come. Shym and pat are negative par- 
ticles, and are used with negative verbs in the past tense, e.g., 
itfm shymla wan, he did not come. 

The use of the word "jing" One of the most striking 
features of the language is the use of the wordjing, which is 
employed to create a verbal noun out of a verb : for instance, 
take the verb bam, to eat; if we prefix jing we h&vejingbam, 
food. Bat, to hold ; jing-bat, a handle. The use of the word 
nong has already been noticed under the heading " verbs." As an 
example of another common prefix, it may again be mentioned 
here. Thus, nong-ai-jingbam means a table servant, literally, 
one who gives food. Again, nong-bat, a holder, literally, one 
who holds. 

Syntax. The order of words in the sentence is usually 
(1) subject, (2) verb, and (3) object, in fact, the same as in 

214 THE KHASIS vn 

English, and in this respect it differs entirely from the order in 
the languages derived from Sanskrit, and that of the languages 
of the Thibeto-Burman group, as far as I have been 
able to ascertain. For instance, in the Kachari or Boro 
language the order in the sentence is (1) subject, (2) object, 
(3) verb. In Khasi when emphasis is needed, 9 however, the 
object occasionally precedes the verb, e.g., ia u soh u la die, he 
has sold the fruit, literally, the fruit he has sold. As stated 
before, adjectives follow the nouns they qualify, e.g., u lum 
bqfyrong, a high mountain, literally, the hill that is high. 
Interrogative adverbs may either precede or follow the verb, 
e.g., naeiphi wan, or phi wan naei, where do you come from ? 
/ No account of the Khasi language would be complete without 
some reference to the adverbs which are so very numerous in 
Khasi. U Nissor Singh, in his admirable little book of " Hints 
on the Study of the Khasi Language," writes, " Adverbs are so 
numerous in the Khasi language that I shall not attempt to 
enumerate them all in this small book. Many of the adverbs, 
indeed, belong to the untranslatables of the language. We arc 
never in want of a specific term to express the appropriate 
degree of any quality." To learn how to use the right adverb 
at the right time is one of the niceties of the language. There 
is a peculiarity about some of the adverbs of place which should 
be mentioned : e.g., Hangto, there (within sight) ; hangne, here ; 
hangta, there (out of sight) ; hangtai, there (at some distance) ; 
hangtei, there (upwards) ; hangthi, there (downwards) ; also 
the interrogative adverbs hangno, nangno, whence, contain the 
inherent root nga, and it seems possible that this nga is the 
first personal pronoun I. If this is so, hangto would mean 
literally "to me there," hangthi "to me down there," and 
similarly nangno, nangne would mean " from where to me 
there," and " from there to me here." 

Adverbs generally follow the words they modify, as u'n hit 
mynta~he will go now, but there are exceptions to the above 
rule, such as interrogative adverbs. The following come before 
those they modify : tang shu, la dang (as soon as, when) : kham, 
shait (used to, ever) ; pat or put (yet) ; and shym (not) ; but shuh 
(more) goes last. Adverbs of past time are formed by pre- 
fixing myn, e.g., mynhynne, a short time ago. Adverbs of future 




time are formed by prefixing la. The particles man, man la, 
and hala denote repetition. 

The Khasis are exceedingly fond of using double words 1 
which add much to the finish and polish of a sentence. Old 
people especially have a predilection this way. It is one of the 
great difficulties of the language to learn how to use such 
double words correctly. The following are some examples : 


kajain ka nep 


ka kot ka sla 


ka lynti ka syngking . 


ka iing ka sem 


u babu, u phabu . 


u tymen u san 


ka stih, ka wait . 

arms (lit. : shield and sword). 

u badon ba em 

a well to do person. 

ka spah ka phew . 


u kha-u-man 

a relation on the father's side. 


pynsuk-pynsain . 

to comfort. 

ia shoh ia dat 

to scuffle. 


to threaten. 

shepting-shepsmiej . 

to be afraid. 

ihthuh-ihthaw . 

to be familiar. 


to beg. 

ia lum-ia lang 

to assemble. 



. bad. 

basmat-basting . 


donbor-donsor . 


don burom-don surom 


bakhraw-batri . 

pertaining to a noble family. 


poor, needy. 








hain-hain . 

. brilliantly (red). 

prum-prum, prem-prem 




nior-nior, niur-niur 


ior-ior, iar-iar 




sip-sip, sap-sap 

having no taste. 

1 Khasi Ictin kynnoh. 

216 THE KHASIS vn 

The Mikirs appear to have borrowed a small portion of their 
vocabulary from the Khasis. The following are quoted as 
examples of possible common roots : 


belly pdk Tcpoh. 

strike (v.) . . . . chdk ' ahoh. 

father po Icpa. 

come(v.) .... v&ng wan, 

rice beer . . . . hor hiar. 

maternal uncle . . . nl-lur kni. 

The Lynngam dialect differs so much from the standard 
Khasi that some remarks regarding the former will not be out 
of place. Dr. Grierson, on pages 17 to 19 of his Volume II. of 
the Linguistic Survey of India has indicated some of these 
differences, which may be recapitulated here as follows. Some 
of the commonest verbs vary considerably from those used in 
the standard dialect. There are also many minor differences of 
pronunciation. A man is u Ireo, not u briew, a son is a u khon, 
not u khun. Standard ng is often represented by nj. Thus 
doinj for ding, fire. A final h often appears as k, and an initial 
I as p. Thus, baroh (Standard), all, becomes in Lynngam prok. 
Standard ei becomes aw. Thus wei = waw, one ; dei = daw, be 
necessary. The articles are frequently omitted. The pronoun 
u is used for the plural as well as the singular, instead of the 
Standard plural Jri. The diminutive i is used with inanimate 
nouns. This is also sometimes the case in the Standard 

Nouns. The prefix of the Accusative-dative is se or sa, often 
contracted to s' instead of ia (Standard). The prefix of the 
Dative is hanam, hnam, or tnam. The Standard Dative-locative 
prefix ha is also used, and may be spelt he or hy. Ta or te are 
also found. For the genitive, besides the Standard jong, are 
found la, am-ba, am, and am-nam. Am-nam and am also 
mean " from." 

The plural sometimes takes the suffix met. 

Adjectives. The usual word for male is korang, and for 
" female " konthaw, in place of the Standard shynrang and 
kynthei respectively. The following are examples of com- 
parisons : Re-myrriang, good ; Mai-myrriang, better ; U re- 

vii LANGUAGE 217 

myrriang, best. The Standard tarn is also used for the super- 

Pronouns. The Personal Pronouns are : 


1st Person, ne biaw, iaw. 

2nd Person, mi, mei phiaw. 

3rd Person, u, ju, u-ju kiw. 

The Nominative of the pronoun of the second person singular 
is given once as la-mi, and once as ma-mi. The ma or ba is 
the Standard emphatic prefix ma. 

Demonstrative Pronouns appear to be be, tei that, and uni, 
or nih, this. Be is used as a definite article in the phrase be 
jawmai, the earthquake. 

The^ Relative Pronoun is u-lah, who. 

Interrogative Pronouns are net, u-iet, who ? and met, 
what ? 

Verbs. The pronoun which is the subject of a verb may 
either precede or follow it. Thus ne rip, I strike ; rip biaw 
we strike. The words meaning to be are re, im, and meit in 
addition to the Standard long. Like the Standard don, im, 
corresponding to Synteng em, also means to have. As in the 
Standard, the Present Tense is formed by using the bare 

The Past Tense is formed in one of five ways, viz. : 

1. By suffixing let, as in ong-let, said. 

2. By suffixing lah-let, as in dih-lah-let, went. 

3. By prefixing lah, and suffixing let, as in lah-ong-let, said. 

4. By prefixing la,h, as in lah-kyllei, asked. 

5. By prefixing yn (yng, ym), as in yn-nai, gave ; yng-kheit, shook ; 

ym-pait, broke ; yn-jai, fell. 

The Future is formed in a very peculiar way. The Standard 
yn is inserted into the middle of the root, immediately after the 
first consonant. Thus rip, strike ; rynip y will strike. If the 
root is a compound, it is inserted between the two members, as 
in pan-yn-sop, will fill. Here observe that the Standard 
causative prefix pyn becomes pan in Lynngam. The Infinitive 
has the same form as the Future. 

Dr. Grierson points out the following most noteworthy 




fact with reference to the formation of the Lynngam Future 
and Infinitive, i.e. that similar infixes occur in Malay, in the 
Nancowry dialect of Nicobar, and the Malacca aboriginal 

The prefix of the Imperative is nei, as in nei-ai, give ; nei-lam, 
bring. The usual negative particle is ji, which is. suffixed, e.g. 
um-ji is not. 


1. Waw, shi 

2. Ar-re or a-re . 

3. Lai-re . 

4. Saw-re . 

5. San-de . 

6. Hyrrew-re 

7. Hynnju-re 

8. Phra-re . 

9. Khondai-re 
10. Shi-phu . 

. Wei, shi. 
. Ar. 
. San. 
. Phra. 

The peculiarity about the Lynngam numerals is the suffix re, 
and the numeral " five " de. None of the other dialects of 
Khasi possess this peculiarity. Dr. Grierson's volume may be 
referred to for a Lynngam Vocabulary. I make the following 
additions : 






ka dypei 

Earthen pot 


u khiw 



ka doh 



ka siang 






u skaw 


u klong dih-um 



u synsar 



khabong jain brung 

ka jain spong 



ka shohshkor 



ka jymphong 


jolonjwa l 

ka pla 



ka tupia 



u saipan 

Under garment (female) 

jain tongpan 

ka jympin 

1 Assamese loan word, a corruption of "julungd." 





Pestle synraw 

Door phyrdaw 

Fowl-house kjor syar 

Portion of house in front 1 iftw 

of the hearth J e 
Do. behind the hearth shangla 

Store-house siang 

Millet jrai 

Indian corn soh rikhaw 

Arum chew 


u synrei 

ka jingkhang 

ka sem siar 

ka nongpei 

ka rumpei 

ka ieng buh kyba 

u krai 

u riw hadem 

ka shiriew 



Basket used 

and sowing 

reaping J khyrnai 

u mohkhiew 
ka wait Lynngam 
ka wait khmut 
u sdi 

ka koh rit 



1. Basa-iew-moit 

29. Khong ji 

Intermarriage with Majaw 



and Hynniewta clans pro- 






2. Diengdoh 



Intermarriage with Lalu, 



Diengdohbah and Diengdoh - 



kylla clans prohibited. 



3. 'DKhar 



4. Dohling 



5. Dulai 



6. Dunai 



7. Hura 



8. Hynniewta 



9. Jala 



10. Jyrwa 



11. Khar Jarain 



12. Lhlem 



13. Khrang 



14. Koiigor 



15. Kyni 



16. Lukhi 



17. Maw 



18. Mawphlang 

52. Lyngdoh-Nonglwai 

19. Mu 

53. Lynden 

20. Moid 

54. Lynrah 

21. Muti 

55. Majaw 

22. Mylliem 

56. Marbaniang 

23. Naior 

This is one of the myn- 

24. Shi-ieng 

tri clans of Mawsynram 

25. Synteng 



57. Malngiang 

27. Khong-bri 

Originally from Maskut in 

28. hat 

the Jowai Sub-division 



58. Marpna 76. 

59. Mawlong 77. 

60. Marboh 78. 

Formerly one of the Kharlar 79. 

Kur clans. Has now become 80. 

61. Mawdkhap 

62. Mohkhiew 81. 

63. Mynrieng 82. 

64. Myrthong 83. 

65. Nongbri 84. 

66. Nongkynrih 

One of the myntri clans of 

the Khyrim State 85. 

67. Nonglait 86. 

68. Nongtran 87. 

69. Nonglathiang 88. 

70. Nongrum 89. 

One of the myntri clans of 90. 

the Khyrim State 91. 

71. Non tar iang 92. 

These two clans cannot 93. 

intermarry. Nongtariang is 94. 
now one of the Khadar Kur 
clans in place of the Marboh 

clan which has become ex- 95. 

tinct. 96. 

72. Padoh 97. 

73. Parariang 98. 

74. Pohnong 99. 

75. Prawai 100. 






One of the myntri clans o 
the Khyrim State 





Shriek means a monkey. 
Possibly totemistic 

Siem Lyngng 










Tham means a crab. Pos- 
sibly totemistic 




War k on 





1. Awri 


Khar luni 

2. Bariang 


,, Malki 

3. Basa-iew-moit 


,, Masar 

4. Bhoi 


, , mawlieh 

5. Bithai 

Intermarriage with 


6. Diengdoh (2) 

pomtiah clan prohibited 

Intermarriage with Masar 


Khar mihpein 

clan prohibited 


,, mithai 

7. 'Dkhar 


,, rnudai 

8. Dumpep 


,, mujai 

9. Hadem 


,, mukhi 

10. Jasia 


,, muti 

11. Khang-shei 


, , my lliem 

12. Khar baino 


,, patti 

13. ,, baki 


,, pein 

14. ,, bangar 


,, phan 

Intermarriage with Nong- 


,, phur 

Iwai clan prohibited 


,, pohlong 

15. Khar bih-khiew 


,, pohshiah 

Intermarriage prohibited 


,, pomtiah 

with Khar-umnuid clan 

Intermarriage with 


16. Khar bonnuid 

mawlieh clan prohibited 

17. bud 


Khar pomtih 

18. ,, bull 


,, pran 

19. dint 


. ryngi 

20. ,, dohiing 


,, rynta 

21. dumpep 



22. hi-dint 


,, shan 

23. iap 


,, shi-ieng 

24, Kamni 


, , shilot 

25. , , Kongor 


, , shong 

26. Kset 


, , shrieh 

27. ,, kynang 


, , sohnoh 

28. long 




224 THE 


59. Khar Umnuid 

98. Khong stia 

Intermarriage with Khar- 

99. , sylla (2) 

bihkhiew clan prohibited 

100. , thaw 

60. Khar urmut 

101. , tiang 

61. War 

102. , thorem 

62. Khier 

103. , wanduh (2) 

63. Khmah 

104. , wet 

64. Khong-binam 

105. , wir 

65. ,, blah 

106. Khriam 

66. buh 

107. Khynriam 

67. ,, buhphang 

108. Khynriem 

68. 'dkhar 

109. Khynriem miyat 

69. dup 

110. Khynriem ma wshorok 

Intermarriage prohibited 

Intermarriage with Pon- 

with Rongsai and Khongree 

grup Lyngdoh and Maw- 


thoh clans prohibited 

70. Khong 1 iap 

111. Khynriem wahksieng 

71. iong 

112. Kur Kalang 

72. ji 

113. Lamin 

Intermarriage with Pongrup 

114. Lawai 

clan prohibited 

Intermarriage with Lyng- 

73. Khong joh 

doh clan prohibited 

74. kai 

115. Lawaisawkher 

75. khar 

116. Lingshing 

76. kiang 

117. Liting 

77. kib 

118. Lyngbah 

78. kylla 

119. Lyngdoh 

79. , , kyndiah 

Intermarriage with Pon- 

80. ,, lam 

grup and Mawthoh clans 

81. ,, liam 


82. likong 

120. Lyngiar 

83. litung 

121. Mairang 

84. ,, luni 

122. Majaid 

85. ,, malai 

123. Manar 

86. ,, mawlow 

124. Masar 

87. ,, niur 

Intermarriage with Dieng- 

88. ,, noh 

doh clan prohibited. 

89. pdei 

125. Mawiong 

90. ,, pnam 

126. Mawphlang 

91. ,, pnan 

127. Mawsharoh 

92. ,, sdoh 

128. Mawthoh 

93. siting 

Intermarriage with Pongrup 

94. slit 

and Lyngdoh clans pro- 

95. sugi^v 


96. sni V 

129. Mawwa 

97. ,, sti J 

130. Morbah 

Intermarriage prohibited 

131. Mormein 

also with Lyngdoh clan 

132. Mukhin 

1 The word khong has probably 

connection with the Synteng word jong 

meaning a clan. 



133. Muroh 166. 

134. Mylliem 167. 

135. Mylliem muthong^ 168. 

136. Ngap I 169. 

137. ,, pdah J 170. 
Intermarriage between these 171. 
clans prohibited also with 172. 
Sohtum clan 173. 

138. Mynsong 

139. Niengnong 

140. Nieng-suh 

142. Nongbri 

Intermarriage with Nong- 174. 

kynrih clans prohibited 175. 

143. Nongbri Partuh 176. 

144. Nonghulew 177. 

145. Nong-khlieh 178. 

146. Nong-kynrieh 179. 

Intermarriage with Nongbri 180. 

clan prohibited 181. 

147. Nong-lwai 182. 

Intermarriage with Khar- 183. 

Bangar clan prohibited 184. 

148. Non^-lyer 185. 

149. Nong-piriir 186. 

150. Nong-pluh 187. 

151. Nongrmn 188. 

152. Nongspung 189. 

153. Nongsteng 190. 

154. Nongatein 191. 

155. Nongtiub 192. 

156. Pdei 193. 

157. Pohkhla 194. 

158. Pohthmi 195. 

159. Pongrup 

Intermarriage with Maw- 

thoh and Lyngdoh clans 196. 

prohibited 197. 

160. Rumkheng 198. 

161. Ruson 199. 

162. Rymkheng 200. 

163. Ryndong (2) 201. 

164. Ryngksai 202. 

165. Rynjah 203. 

Intermarriage with Mawroh 
clan prohibited 







Intermarriage with Myllie- 
mngap, Mylliempdah and 
Mylliem-muttong clans pro- 

















Tynsil (2) 






Intermarriage with War- 
shong prohibited 


,, khyllew 

, , nioi 

,, Nongjri 

Intermarriage with Warbah 

clan prohibited 



The dieny shat pyllentj, or egg-breaking board, is shaped as 
indicated in the diagram. Having placed a little heap of red 
earth on the board at point p, the egg-breaker sits facing the 
board in the position shown in the diagram. He first of all 
makes a little heap of rice in the middle of the board sufficient 
to support the egg. He places the egg there. He then takes it 
up and smears it with red earth, muttering incantations the 
while. Having finished the invocation to the spirits, the egg- 
breaker sweeps the grains of rice off the board, stands up, and 
dashes the egg on the board with considerable force. The 
large portion of the egg-shell is made to fall in the middle 
of the board, as at X in the diagram. This portion of the shell 
is called Jca lieng, or the boat. The small bits of egg-shell which 
fall around the boat are either good or evil prognostics, accord- 
ing to the following rules : 

1. The bits of shell which fall on the right of the boat are 
called kijinglar, and those on the left kijingkem. Supposing 
fragments of shell fall as at 6, c, d, e, with their insides down- 
wards, this is a good sign, but if one of the fragments lies with 
its outside downwards, this is a bad omen, and signifies ka sang 
long kha, or sin on the father's or the children's part. It may 
also signify ka daw lum, or " cause from the hill," i.e., that the 
illness or other affliction has been caused by a god of some hill. 

2. If the fragments of shell lie on the left side of the boat as 
at g, k t i,j in the diagram, they are named kijingkem. If they 
lie with their insides downwards, they indicate a favourable 





Position of Egg Breaker. 


sign. If g lies with its outside downwards, this is an evil omen. 
If g and h lie with their insides downwards, this is favourable 
even if i lies with its outside downwards. If, however, j lies 
with its outside downwards, this is not a good sign. 

3. If there are a number of pieces of egg-shell lying in a line, 
as at k, this is an evil prognostic, the line of shell fragments 
indicating the road to the funeral pyre. Such a line of shell 
fragments is called kileng rah thang. This sign is a harbinger 
of death. 

4. If all the fragments of shell on both sides of the board, 
excepting the boat, lie with their insides downwards, the 
question asked by the egg-breaker is not answered. If a or I 
fall with their outsides downwards, this is a bad sign. 

5. If the portion of a shell at / falls with the outside down- 
wards, this indicates that some god needs appeasing by sacrifice. 

6. If there are a number of small fragments lying around the 
boat, as in the diagram, these mean that there are many reasons 
for the illness, which cannot be ascertained. 

7. If the portion of shell marked s is detached from the boat, 
this indicates that the goddess is very angry. 

8. If four fragments lie around the boat, so as to form a 
square, as c, c, h,j, these mean that the patient is at the point 
of death. These are called ki leng sher thang. 

9. If there are no fragments, as at d, e 9 f t g, h, i, it is a puzzle, 
ka leng kymtip. 

Note. The above information was obtained from U Samp 
Singh, of Mairong; U Thum, of Laitlyngkot, and U Bud, of 
Jowai. Different egg-breakers have somewhat different methods 
of reading the signs, but the main points are usually the same. 


Adjective, 211, 216 

Adoption, 85 

Adultery, Punishment of, 93 

Adverbs, 214, 215 

Aerolite, 13 

Affinities, 12 

Agricultural sayings, 43 

Agriculture, 26, 28, 39 

Ahoms, 10, 117 

Allen, Mr., 60 

Amwi, 202 

Ancestor- worship, 65, 105, 109 

Ancestors, Offerings to, 109 

Ancestresses, Tribal, 63 

Animism, 105 

Appearance, Personal, 2, 3 

Archery, 24, 54, 56 

Arson, 93 

Article, the, 209 

Asiatic Society of Bengal, 58 

Assam Gazette, 98 

Auguries, 118, 132 

Avebury, Lord, 147 

Aymonier, Monsieur, 13, 15, 18 

Bamboo platform, 35 

Basbanya's ship, 114 

Baskets, 37 

JBeh dienfj-khlam, 155, 158 

Beh tympeiv, 142 

Bewitching, 93 

Bhoi and Lynngam houses, 32 

Bhois, 2, 5, 21 

Birdwood, Sir George, 41 

Birth and naming ceremonies, 124 

Bisnvakarma, 31 

Bivar, Col., 5, 28, 51, 56, 69, 106, 

107, 117, 118, 158 
Bradley Birt, Mr., 148 
Brigit, St., 112 
Burma, Upper, Gazetteer, 16 

Cambodians, 102 

Campbell, Sir George, 202 

Cannon in Jaintia, 25 

Cap, with ear-flaps, 18 

Cases, 210 

Caterpillar, hairy, used for food, 52 

Cattle-breeding, 27 

Celts, shoulder-headed, 12, 13 

Cenotaphs, 145 
Census of 1901, 1 

1911, 1, 6 

Challenges between armies, 97 
Characteristics, Physical and General, 


Cherra exogamous clans, 66, 221 
Chiefs, Impecunious, 68 
Children from the top, 80 
Cholera, driving away, 35, 137, 208 
Christianity, 15 
Comparatives, 211 
Cotton cloths, 59-60 
Courts of Justice, 91 
Couvade, 127 
Cracroft, Mr., 58 
Creation, 106 
Cremation, 137 

,, of Cherra Siem, 73 
Cromlechs, 144, 147 
Crown lands, 87 

Dacoity by Lynngams, 199 

Dal ton, Col., 145 

Dancing, 155, 156 

Darrah, Mr. H. Z., 60 

Dead, Disposal of, 140 

Death, Accidental, 136 

,, Arrows shot at, 133, 134 
,, ceremonies, 132, 137, 140 

Deities, Minor, 107 

Demonstrative pronouns, 211 

Denudation of forests, 7 

Descent, Method of reckoning, 82 

Dialects, 207 

Diengdoh, U Hormu Rai, 110 
clan, 63, 65, 66 

Diengdohbah clan, 65 

Diengiei Hill, Legend of, 164-166 

Dimapur monoliths, 150 

Disputes, Decision of, 91 

Distillers, 27 

Divination, 117, 226 

Divorce, 79, 80, 81 

Bobbie, Mr., 28 

Dog, friend of man, 51 

Dog, Legend of, 174 

Dolmens, 145 

Doloi, 75 

Domestic servants, 26 




Dress, 18-21 

,, Modern, 20 
Drink, 5, 52-54 
Durbar, 67, 91 
Dutch East Indies, 17 
Dyes, 27 
Dynamiting fish, 50, 51 

East India Company's first letter- 

book, 41 

Egg-breaking, 16, 106, 112, 141, 226 
Embalming in honey, 30, 140 
Exogamy, 63, 65 
Exogamous clans, 221 

Family (iiny), 63 

,, becoming extinct or iap duh, 

Fergusson, Mr., 147, 148 
Festivities, 155-158 
Fishing, 49, 50 
Fish-poisoning, 50 
Folk-lore, 161 
Food, 51 

Forbes, Mr., 11, 12, 102, 200 
Fou-nan (Cambodia), 18 
Frazer, Dr., 17, 113, 125, 126 
Furniture, 35 

Gait, Mr,, 60, 102 

Gaiters, 19 

Gamblers, 5 

Games, 54-57 

Garo, 21 

Genders, 209 

Genna, 158 

Geographical distribution, 6 10 

Geology, 8 
" Golde 

en Bough," 17, 113, 125, 126, 


Gongs used as currency, 195 
Grandmother's lock, 3 
Grierson, Sir George, 15, 16, 138, 200, 

202, 208, 209, 216, 217, 218 
Groves, Sacred, 33, 34, 87 
Gunpowder, 24, 25 

Hajon Manick U, Sieni, 73 

Hdli, 89 

Head-hunting amongst the Wild Was, 


Hearn, Mr. Lafcadio, 111, 113 
Heath, Mr., 84 
Hell, No belief in, 106 
Henniker, Mr. F. C.,22,23 
Hidimba, 2 

Ho-Mundas, 11, 18, 208 
Hooker, Sir Joseph, 9, 140 
Houses, 30 

Hunter, Sir William, 7 
Hunting, 48 
Hypergamy, Nil, 78 

ladih kiad ceremony, 131 

lawbei, Ka, 151, 153 

leu Ksih, 152 

Images, None of gods, 106 

Incantation, 112 

Incest, 94, 123 

Inheritance, 82 

Intermarriage, Prohibitions of, 77 

Invocation at marriage, 129, 130 

Iron workings, 57 * 

Jddukiita, 2, 114 

Jaintia, 102, 103 

Jeeban Roy, U, 79, 80, 128, 135, 141 

Jenkins, The Rev. Mr., 107, 108, 123, 

Jewellery, 21-23, 128, 129 

,, Lynngam, 129 
Jhum, 40 
Jirang, 207 

Kali, 103 

Kampatwat, Ka, 154 
Khasi hoe, 12 
Khrong, 67 

Khunlung, Khunlai, 117 
Khyrim, 66 

,, exogamous clans, 221 2*25 
Kidnapping British subjects, 103 
Kindred languages, 200 
Kine Singh, Raja, 72 
Kni, 78 

'* Knight's move," 83 
Kol, 208 

Kopili, 64, 103, 104, 115, 152, 180 
Kwang, 129 
Kuhn, Professor, 15, 16, 200, 202, 

205, 208 

Kuki colonies, 2 
Kyllang, 116, 162, 170 
,, and Syinper, 170 

Lac, 47, 48 

Lakadong, 205 

Lalu clan, 65 

Lamdoh marriage ceremony, 127, 131 

Land Revenue assessment in Jaintia, 


Land Revenue nil in Khasi Hills, 67 
Land tenure and laws, 86-91 
Lands, Private, 88 

,, in Jaintia, 89 

,, puja \ in, 89 

, , service J Jaintia, 89 

,, priests', 87 
Language, 200 

,, "Hints on the Study of 

the Khasi," 214 
I^arnai pottery, 60-61 
Lewis, Rev. W., 93 
" Linguistic Survey of India," 209 



Lister, Colonel, 57 

Litigious natives, 5 

Logan, Mr., 15, 149, 200 

Loh Ryndi, U, and Ka Lib Dohkha, 

Lost art of writing, 10 

Love of Nature, 5 

Lowis, Mr., 15, 18 

Lyall, Sir Charles, 106, 145, 161, 209 

Lyngdoh, 105, 120, 121 

Lynngam dialect, 216 
dress, 194 
food, 197 
jewellery, 23 
law of inheritance, 85 
marriage, 131, 198 
ownership of land, 90, 91 
tribes origin, legend of, 

,, weapons, 25 

Magic, Sympathetic, 18, 126 
Malacca, 218 
Malay, 218 

,, Archipelago, 1L3 

,, connection with, 12 

,, influence, 17 
Malngiang clan, 64 
Manchester goods, 27, 57 
Manik, Raitong U, 186 
Mantri, 67 
Manufactures, 57 
Markets, 192 
Marriage, 76 

,, cost of, 130 
Matriarchal System, 16, 76, 105 
Matvbynna, 142, 151 
Mawlynti or kjat, 143, 150, 151 
Maiv-tihonythait, 150, 153 
Maw-umkoi, 143, 150, 153 
Maxwell, Col., 94, 149 
McCosh, Mr., 6 
Menhirs, 145 
Migration from East, 11 
Mikir, 2, 5, 25, 85, 
Milk products, Taboo of, 51 
Moberly, Mr., 144 
Mon, 102 
Mon-Anam, 11, 13 
Mon, connection with, 208 

,, descent of, 11 
Mon-Khmer, 15, 16 
Monoliths, 112, 144 
Mono-syllabic language, 208 
Months, Lunar, 190 
Moon's spots, Supposed origin of, 172 
Mother, Tribal, 112 
Mummies of Siems of Cherra, 138, 


Munda, 124, 200, 208 
Murder, punishment of, 93 

Music, 4, 38 
Mylliem, 71 
Mynnar, 207, 208 
"Mynta, Khasi," 111 

Naga, 15, 18, 102 

,, Eastern, resemblance to, 15 
Nancowry, 208, 218 
Natural forces, Worship of, 114 
Negative, the, 213 
Niam, 76 

Nicobar Islands, 202, 218 
Nissor Singh, U, 161, 214 
Nongjri Wars, 113 
Nongkrem puja, 20, 121 
Nongtathiang clan, 159 
Nongtungs, or Stinkers, 137 
Nouns, 216 
Number, 210 
Numbers, Comparative Vocabulary 

of, 202 

Numerals, 202-205, 211 
,, Lynngam, 218 
Nurseries, Orange, 41 

Occupation, 26 
Oldham, Dr., 58 
Opium, 5 
Oranges, 41, 42 

,, Price of, 46 
Orang Outang, 208 
Ordeals, 94-97 

Order of words in sentence, 208 
Origin, 10-12 

Pagri, 128 

Pah Hyntiew, Ka, 115 

Palaung, 16 

,, folk-lore, 15-16 
Pariong clan, 65 
Participles, 213 
Parts of speech, 209 
Peal, Mr. 8. E., 12, 13, 18 
Pearson, Karl, Professor, 112, 121 
Phonetic systems, agreement of, 201 
Physical characteristics, 4 
Pigs, 35 
Pitfalls, 49 
Pleaders, Khasi, 92 
Pleyte, Mr. C. M., 17, 126 
Pnar-Wurs, 32 

Polyandry, No evidence of, 77 
Polysyllabic language, 208 
Potato, 26, 12, 44. 
Pottery, 60 
Priestess, High, 70 
Priesthood, 120 

Prohibited degrees of marriage, 78 
Pronominal Prefixes, 209 
Pronouns, 210, 217 
Pynhiar xynjat, 127